This is a panel which I organised with Professor of Geography Matthew Gandy and Andrew Harris of University College London (UCL) at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) on Friday 18 April 2008 at the Westin Copley Place Hotel, 10 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts. See this link to AAG Online Program Panel 4551.
Over the last decade, Mumbai has become far more prominent within international coverage of contemporary urbanism. This greater focus on Mumbai has been a welcome rejoinder to a continued predominance of North American and European cities within urban studies and debate. Yet in accounting for urban change in Mumbai, there has been a tendency to uncritically adopt Eurocentric models and terminology.
This session seeks to explore some of the ways that Mumbai disrupts and contradicts existing categories, histories and narratives of urban analysis. The session will question some of the institutional frameworks for urban research and a tendency for debates about the future of cities to be initiated and directed by experts and practitioners based in the global North.
It will attempt to assess why Mumbai has recently assumed significance as an urban archetype, and examine ways urbanists can help facilitate scholarship in cities such as Mumbai, and develop new progressive forms of learning and research. The aim is not to isolate Mumbai as an exceptional form of urbanism nor to confer paradigmatic status on Mumbai, but to show how a city such as Mumbai can be used to generate new theoretical dialogue, greater historical perspective and open up new channels of urban policy formation.
Andrew Harris, Department of Geography and Urban Laboratory, University College London (UCL)
Jonathan Shapiro Anjaria, Department of Anthropology, University of California at Santa Cruz
Shekhar Krishnan, Program in Science Technology & Society, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Nikhil Rao, Department of History, Wellesley College
Ninad Pandit, Department of Urban Studies & Planning (DUSP), MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
- Why has Mumbai increasingly been used as a resource for international urban research and debate (e.g. Urban Age)? What models, metaphors and categories have been deployed to depict Mumbai, and what have been their capacities and limitations? Why have certain processes and spaces been emphasised?
- How does this new international spotlight on the city reinforce/overlap with the portrayal of Mumbai as world class? How and where do these new circuits of knowledge operate?
- Can Mumbai be used as a laboratory for refiguring, complicating and renewing (Eurocentric) urban concepts and theories? How can comparative research between Mumbai and cities elsewhere best be framed and undertaken?
- How have narratives of history in Bombay/Mumbai been assembled and fragmented, and has there been sufficient analysis of the city’s specific formations of modernity? Is a colonial gaze being replayed in contemporary urban redevelopment policies and practices? What does this teach us in terms of wider understandings of a ‘colonial present’?
- What research strategies and institutional arrangements are best able to cope with Mumbai’s opaque, mythical and chaotic qualities and the dynamic and performative forms of power in the city? Does researching Mumbai demand and generate new innovative methodologies and outputs?
- What examples and opportunities does Mumbai provide to imagine and realise new notions of citizenship that challenge neoliberal world views and offer a radical democratisation of urban politics? How have alliances been formed, dialogue created and ideas translated between Mumbai and other cities?