Category Archives: projects

PUKAR Monsoon Doc-Shop

Originally published in Humanscape special issue on Learning Beyond Teaching, edited by Shilpa Phadke, August 2003.

It is a well-known cliche that today, all of us deal with information in much greater abundance and intensity than ever before. The Internet, the sign of this new economy, is a huge repository of information, with signs, images and stories flowing through its ever expanding networks. Any creative and critical engagement today also means learning to deal with such enormous archives and flows of information, and understanding how they are created. While on the one hand the world around us is increasingly mediated by new technologies and media forms that shape our perceptions acutely, on the other hand most of us do not have access to these technologies, nor are we encouraged to shape the mediated reality around us.

Any critical pedagogy today must address these questions, raised by the advent of new media practices, and the increasing importance of information and communication technologies to our everyday lives, especially in cities in India. The response of mainstream educational institutions has been primarily defensive, to shore up their role against a weakening state and an aggressive market — with the introduction of new diploma courses and degree programmes catered for lucrative careers in the corporate media, such as the Bachelors of Mass Media (BMM) courses in Mumbai. The responses from individual teachers and scholars, media producers and activists, and other groups and organisations is still being debated.

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The Spaces of Post-Industrial Mumbai

This unpublished paper was presented at SARAI ‘CITY ONE’ Conference at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi, January 2003. It records the findings of the Post-Industrial Landscapes Project which I directed at PUKAR (Partners for Urban Knowledge Action & Research), 2000-2003.

Deindustrialisation?

The pivotal role that cities have played in the global shift in the dominant sectors of production from large-scale, mass manufacture of durable commodities to the provision of producer services like finance, banking, and information is by now well-established. Like many other globalising cities in the North and South, Mumbai in the nineties has witnessed a number of other dramatic transformations associated with the processes of globalisation.

These include the world-wide integration of finance and capital markets; the increasing importance of the sphere of consumption to public culture and politics; the percolation of new technologies of information and communication through computer networks, reorganising the space and time of social life and production; the decentralisation and informalisation of economic activity; and the erosion of the authority of centralised state bureaucracies and governments to regulate and control social life and production within their national territories. This set of processes are overlapping and historically contingent, and take different forms in different places.

landuse

Over the past decade in Mumbai, a debate on the changing industrial landscape of the city has been articulated by trade unionists and activists, journalists and scholars, architects, urban planners and designers, and the business and policy-making community. This emerging discourse on the city has many been voiced around many inter-connected concerns — the shrinkage and closure of manufacturing industries in the city and suburbs; the “informalisation” of manufacturing production, and the increasing exploitation of migrant labourers, women and children in this new work regime of casual and contract labour, undermining the employment base and solidarity of the old working classes; the notorious instances of high-income gentrification in former working-class neighbourhoods and industrial districts like the Mill Lands (1); as well as the fears of the “death” of the city with the flight of its industries, its declining quality of life, environmental degradation and overburdened infrastructure, and its questionable prospects for future economic growth (2).

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Lexicon of Indian Journalese

LEXICON OF THE CLICHES, BANALITIES AND TRUISMS OF INDIAN JOURNALISM as conceived by Nikhil Rao and Shekhar Krishnan

For a while now, we have been engaged in a great philological project, our very own 21st century Hobson Jobson, as it were: that of compiling a lexicon of the marvellous cliches, truisms, banalities, and other little idiosyncrasies that litter the pages of our Great Indian Newspapers.

Contributions by David Clingingsmith, Aaron York, Eric Beverley, Arvind Rajagopal, Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar, Namita Devidayal, Shailaja Neelakanthan, Anagha Neelakanthan, Rajeev Rao, Avtar Singh, Rohan Sippy, Rohena Gera, Rochona Mazumdar, Paul Beban, Sanjay Bulchandani.

The Lexicon

All text for all news in the English print media in India is essentially generated out of these words. Feel free to add, append, and modify the lexicon and the master paragraph below.

  1. confabulate: to confer. “The party leaders confabulated about the new agreement.”
  2. work out the modalities: sort out the details. “The party leaders confabulated about working out the modalities of the new agreement.”
  3. supremo: head dude. “The party supremos confabulated about working out the modalities of the new agreement.”
  4. brigand: bad dude. “The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos confabulated about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand.”
  5. crack sleuths: smart dudes. “The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos confabulated with the Special Task Force’s crack sleuths about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand.”
  6. strongman: big dude. “The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos, in consultation with the Maratha strongman, confabulated with the Special Task Force’s crack sleuths about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand.”
  7. hardened criminals: tough dudes
  8. airdash: to move at other than usual glacial pace. “The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos, in consultation with the Maratha strongman, confabulated with the Special Task Force’s crack sleuths about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand. The PM himself has been airdashed in.”
  9. beefed up security: more bodies, but not necessarily more security. “The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos, in consultation with the Maratha strongman, confabulated with the Special Task Force’s crack sleuths about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand. The PM himself has been airdashed in under conditions of beefed up security.”
  10. second only to Scotland Yard: usually cited while hailing the work of the Mumbai Police; the subtext is that they’re not anymore
  11. swing into action: to finally stop drinking chai and reluctantly get off your ass.
  12. swoop down upon: “The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos, in consultation with the Maratha strongman, confabulated with the Special Task Force’s crack sleuths about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand. The PM himself has been airdashed in under conditions of beefed up security. Meanwhile the Mumbai police force, second only to Scotland Yard and having been called in to assist with the situation, have now swung into action and are ready to swoop down upon the brigand and his associates.”
  13. nab: seize
  14. flying squads of nuisance detectors: These are the Mumbai Police’s intrepid stalwarts who have been relentlessly patrolling the city enforcing the B.M.C’s recent ban on plastic bags of less than 20 microns thickness.
  15. abscond: to evade police.
  16. scam: normal conditions of doing business in South Asia.
  17. to the tune of Rs 10 crores: estimated dimensions of scam.
  18. point the finger of suspicion
  19. stung by criticism: react to weary but yet admirably persistent public outrage.
  20. take stock of the situation: to pretend to give a shit.
  21. take umbrage: to give a shit.
  22. take up cudgels on behalf of: to stand up for.
  23. cuddling and fondling: [this, we must admit, we have never seen, but Aaron assures us that he has seen newsprint to the effect of “Madan Lal Khurana and Sahib Singh Verma were seen cuddling and fondling in post-election bliss.”]
  24. fracas, also known as dustup: most often seen in close conjunction with unseemly. often applied to parliament and other herdings of political animals.
  25. inveterate, sometimes confused on sub-editor’s desk with invertebrate so one can find references to ‘invertebrate followers of the political scene.’
  26. the India Today ending, also sometimes the TOI edit page ending, which always takes the form of a rhetorical question, e.g.,
    1. is anyone listening?
    2. have the ends of justice been served, that is the question
    3. only time will tell (that old tattletale)… ad infinitum
  27. the ends of justice scattered all over, especially in the Calcutta journals. where are the beginnings of justice? doesn’t anyone care? is anyone accountable for the beginnings of justice? Is that the question?
  28. Eves and Romeos: young women and men, most often seen together in the context of roadside Romeos being accused of Eve-teasing.
  29. hardcores, ultras and clean shaven culprits associated with the Punjab action and other trouble spots.
  30. hot pursuit: recently-much-in-the-news
  31. the classic epitaph/retirement speech phrase: so and so must receive kudos for having rendered yeoman service to such and such.
  32. prepone
  33. the enigmatically enhanced pressurise
  34. cooling their heels in the lockup

The Ur Paragraph of Indian Journalism

The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos, in consultation with the Maratha strongman, confabulated with the Special Task Force’s (S.T.F.) crack sleuths about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand. The PM himself has been airdashed in under conditions of beefed up security. Meanwhile the Mumbai police force (M.P.F.), second only to Scotland Yard (S.Y.) and having been called in to assist with the situation, have now swung into action and are ready to swoop down upon the brigand and his associates.

In other news today, a flying squad of nuisance detectors (F.S.N.D.) managed to nab red-handed three hardened criminals who have been remorselessly violating the ban on plastic bags (B.O.P.B.). Two other associates in the plastic bag scam (P.B.S.) are believed to be absconding in Delhi. Meanwhile, the Bombay Municipal Corporation (B.M.C.), stung by criticisms alleging that it is involved in the scam, has promised to take stock of the situation. The municipal workers union (M.W.U.) has taken umbrage at the allegations and has vowed to take up cudgels on behalf of their comrades in the flying squads. The scam is rumoured to involve sums to the tune of Rs. 10 crores.

Border Security Force (B.S.F.) cadres have been placed on red alert at the latest trouble spot (L.T.S.) on the Indo-Pak border following anti-national activities being engaged in by a band of hardcores. Highly placed sources at South Block (H.P.S.S.B.) point the finger of suspicion (F.O.S.) at a sinister foreign hand (S.F.H.) for sowing discord. Since the leaders of this band of ultras have been cooling their heels in the lockup of late, the most recent anti-social activities are probably intended to pressurize the government into preponing the date of their release. Kudos to our B.S.F. boys for having rendered yeoman service in putting a lid on this situation.

In related news, an unseemly fracas broke out in Parliament today while Members were “debating” the latest border situation. The issue at stake was a recent master plan that has been mooted by doyens of the Indian security establishment and that is intended to quash all manner of anti-social elements operating in backward areas. Inveterate watchers of the political scene shook their collective head in dismay. Will our leaders ever learn to lead? Will the ends of justice be served? Only time will tell.

The Murder of Phoenix Mills

This long essay is a study of the closure and redevelopment of the Phoenix Mills in Lower Parel, Mumbai, conducted from September 1999 to March 2000. Click here to download the original booklet (PDF) published by the Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti (GKSS), Girangaon Bachao Andolan and Lokshahi Hakk Sanghatana in April 2000 in Mumbai. Since the tragedies at Elphinstone and Kamala Mills in 2017, the full text and booklet is re-published below with minor revisions and colour photography from 1998-99.

The Murder of the Mills: A Case Study of Phoenix Mills

1. Introduction
2. The Murder of Phoenix Mills
3. Ghosts of Girangaon
4. Redeveloping Mumbai
5. Leisure and Labour
6. Conclusion

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Workers’ Rights and Labour Law

Click here to download PDF of Workers Rights and Labour Law (India Centre for Human Rights & Law, 1999).

Workers Rights and Labour Law: A Backgrounder for the Workshop on Labour was compiled and edited with the help of Jairus Banaji and the Trade Union Solidarity Committee (TUSC) in Mumbai in 1999. It was published for the National Conference on Human Rights, Social Movements, Globalisation and the Law held at Panchagani, Maharashtra in December 1999 by the India Centre for Human Rights and Law, Mumbai.

“Analytics of Caste Power in Modern India: Discourse, Antagonism & Hegemony”

Dr B.R. Ambedkar, portrait in the Samyukta Maharashtra Museum, Shivaji Park
Dr B.R. Ambedkar, portrait in the Samyukta Maharashtra Museum, Shivaji Park, Dadar, Mumbai

This is my unpublished M.A. thesis, submitted in 1999 to the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where it was awarded a distinction.

You can download the full PDF for offline reading. Please note that this work is not for citation without my permission via email.

Abstract

This essay argues for an analytics of caste power in modern India through an argument of the indeterminacy and fuzziness of its practice, symbolic forms, and modes of articulation in the discourses on caste offered by the synthetic theory of Louis Dumont; ethnographies of the dominant caste and king; and in the discourse of colonial governmentality.

Secondly, this essay makes an intervention in the analysis of subalternity, showing that the lower-caste domain is constitutive of the hegemonic order of caste society by making present the negativity that inheres in the caste order and provides a ground for its criticism and transformation. In this regard, it describes the emergence of social antagonisms in the anti-caste polemics of modern non-Brahman ideologues, with analyses of the particular discourses of Mahatma Jotiba Phule and Kancha Ilaiah, arguing for an understanding of antagonisms as constitutive of the social in the plastic political world of modernity.

Finally, this essay addresses the egalitarian imaginary of modern politics, its introduction in Indian society through nationalist politics, and the generalisation of this form of politics in the postcolonial era through the proliferation of caste antagonisms and the practices of hegemonic articulation in contemporary democracy.

Throughout, there is a consistent theoretical concern with abandoning essentialist conceptions of the unitary subject agent and the sutured social totality, and with presenting the symbolic and discursive construction of subject positions and social relations, affirming the open, politically negotiable character of the social.

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