Category Archives: projects

Empire’s Metropolis: Money, Time & Space in Colonial Bombay

This is a summary and outline of my doctoral and post-doctoral dissertation research in the Program in Science Technology & Society (STS), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) submitted in late 2013 and developed as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Asia Research Institute (ARI), National University of Singapore (NUS), 2016-17.

Summary

Empire’s Metropolis: Money, Time & Space in Colonial Bombay is a social history of technology and urbanisation in the “commercial capital” of modern India. It spans the period from Bombay’s first boom and bust during the American Civil War – when the city emerged as a gateway for the global cotton trade – to its rise into one of Asia’s largest industrial centres following World War I.

The principal sources for this historical study are newly opened municipal archives and private papers that chronicle the growth of the colonial port city from the 1860s to 1920s. Six interlocking themes and periods are explored in chronological chapters on the history of share trading and merchant banking; railway, shipping and telegraph infrastructures; urban land acquisition and valuation; clocks and time-keeping; cadastral surveying and property rights; and the place of street networks in the city’s built environment.

Modern Bombay developed within and against empire. Imperial hegemony was often most insecure in its urban seat of command and control, even as external trade and factory industry fuelled the city’s rapid expansion. Attempts to impose modern practices of commodity exchange, standard time, market value and private property were neither taken for granted, nor simply resisted or rejected. Neither “urbanisation” nor “industrialisation” unfolded smoothly, as elite strategies and mass struggles over finance, labour and land shaped the paths of technological and social change.

Continue reading Empire’s Metropolis: Money, Time & Space in Colonial Bombay

Bombay Between the Wars: Politics, Information & Institutions in Late Colonial India

This is a proposal and summary of my ongoing research project on Bombay City between the two world wars. Bombay Between the Wars is a social history of urban politics, information and institutions in late colonial Bombay City, from the years before World War I until the outbreak of World War II. Through this study, I seek to understand the transformation of colonial rule and urban governance in the inter-war period, using the city as a window into networks of people, ideas and power in South Asia in the final decades of British rule. In this period, India’s commercial capital witnessed rapid social and technological change, with the rise of mass politics, state formation and the development of civic and local institutions which have remained under-investigated.

Continue reading Bombay Between the Wars: Politics, Information & Institutions in Late Colonial India

Education, Society & Science in Modern India

I taught this course for doctoral students in the Graduate School in Science Education at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, in the fall semester of 2015.

Click here to download the full course syllabus as a PDF. All the course readings listed below are available to download on Google Drive.

About the Course

This graduate course is designed to expose doctoral students to the history and sociology of modern science education in colonial and post-colonial India, with a focus on ideas and institutions, concepts and thinkers, and major debates in this emerging field.

The seminar will meet twice per week for four months, and is spread over three units or themes of five weeks each on 1. “Colonialism & Modernity”, 2. “Nation & State” and 3. “Education, Policy & Society”.

Participants shall take turns writing three 500-600 word review/discussion papers on the assigned readings for prior circulation via the mailing list, as well as to lead discussion in that day’s seminar session.

The main requirement is a long essay or research paper of 5,000-6,000 words, comprising a literature review, social, demographic or other data with a theoretical argument on education, science and society in India. Rough drafts are due mid-way in the term.

All seminar participants are expected to complete close reading of assigned texts in advance in every session, and be prepared to participate in person and online via the course mailing list.

Continue reading Education, Society & Science in Modern India

Urban South Asia Workshop Archive (2006-2008)

This is a full archive of articles and books from the twenty sessions of Urban South Asia, a workshop and reading group on cities in India and Asia which I organised with anthropologist Prof Michael M.J. Fischer and historian Dr Nikhil Rao at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

From 2006 to 2008 we hosted social scientists and urban researchers who presented their work in-progress alongside selected texts and sources on urbanisation in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and America. Files linked in the posts below are provided solely for purposes of study, research, and education.


MIT-STS URBAN SOUTH ASIA WORKSHOP

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Program in Science Technology & Society (STS)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) E51-185, Cambridge, MA 02139, U.S.A.

Continue reading Urban South Asia Workshop Archive (2006-2008)

MIT STS PhD Dissertation Defense

Listen below to the audio of my talk and presentation at my dissertation defence in the Doctoral Program in History, Anthropology and STS (Science Technology & Society), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on 29 August 2013. The title of my thesis was Empire’s Metropolis: Money, Time & Space in Colonial Bombay, 1870-1920.

My thesis committee was chaired by anthropologist Professor Michael M.J. Fischer and political scientist Professor Sudipta Kaviraj of Columbia University, and historian Professor Merritt Roe-Smith. I was awarded and graduated my doctorate in October 2013.

 

 

Handbook of the Bombay Archives

I am happy to share online this freely downloadable PDF of The Handbook of the Bombay Archives (B.G. Kunte, ed., compiled by Sanjiv Desai and R.S. Pednekar, Mumbai: Government of Maharashtra Department of Archives, 1978).

Long out of print and unavailable, this is an essential guide to the Maharashtra State Archives, one of India’s richest and best managed repositories of historical documents, located at Elphinstone College in Kala Ghoda. Enjoy and share widely!

ChaloBEST: Sustainable Mobility for Mumbai

chalobest_final02ChaloBEST began in January 2011 as a studio-based learning experiment at Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE) to make public transportation data available over the web, SMS, smartphones, and print media using free and open source software, open geospatial and civic data, and crowd-sourcing by commuters.

Our aim is to make transport more social and mobility more sustainable for all citizens in Mumbai. In 2012 we were supported by the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) as first-prize winners in the Sankranti Transform Urban India competition held at the India Urban Conference 2011. See my final ten-minute talk to the jury below.

For technical documention see our project wiki and for the software code see our project on Github. All of our work in ChaloBEST was been made possible through the kind assistance of officials of BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking) to our students and volunteers in Mumbai from 2011 to 2014.

Mumbai Free Map Community GIS

NASA LandSAT 7 self-made composited imagery with my GPS tracks overlaid, Greater Mumbai and Vasai-Virar 2004-2006
NASA LandSAT 7 self-made composited imagery with my GPS tracks overlaid, Greater Mumbai and Vasai-Virar 2004-2006

This is both the first project proposal (2004-5) and final report (2009) to the Pan-Asia ICT R&D Grants Programme of the Asia Pacific Development Information Programme of UNDP (United Nations Development Programme),

CRIT (Collective Research Initiatives Trust) obtained a grant to pursue this project and organise workshops and labs. In recent years this work has been  superseded by OpenStreetMap.

 

Proposal Abstract

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region is one of Asia’s largest cities, in which urban spaces are the central arenas of political imagination and intervention. The past decade has seen the articulation of a new politics of space in Mumbai — through the contesting claims of the urban poor majority in slums and squatter settlements, assertive residents’ associations and civic reform movements, the prosperous construction industry and builder-politician nexus, and concerned practitioners in the design, architecture and research professions.

In spite of this increased awareness and concern with urban spaces, basic information on housing, land, infrastructure and environment — the right of citizens — remains largely inaccessible, because of bureaucratic obstacles and vested interests. This asymetry of information has given rise to predatory classes of builders and speculators, whose privileged access to information is transformed into “development rights” for construction, eroding accountability to local communities and urban stake-holders, and the planning policies meant to uphold their rights.

Existing applications of new spatial technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) for commercial services or scientific research remain distant from the needs of these grass-roots communities and local decision-makers. Citizen increasingly demand their rights to information on urban space — and recent legislative enactments and public interest litigation on freedom of information have recently institutionalised this right. Continue reading Mumbai Free Map Community GIS

Patrick Geddes & Town Planning in India

Professor Patrick Geddes, from the Silver Jubilee Souvenir of the Bombay University School of Economics & Sociology, 1947
Professor Patrick Geddes, from the Silver Jubilee Souvenir of the Bombay University School of Economics & Sociology, 1947

SOURCES ON PATRICK GEDDES

Patrick Geddes, Selections from “Cities in Evolution” from Marshall Stalley, ed., Patrick Geddes: Spokesman for Man and the Environment, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1972.

Hellen Meller, “Urbanisation and the Introduction of Modern Town Planning Ideas in India, 1900-1925” in K.N. Chaudhuri and Clive J. Dewey, eds., Economy & Society: Essays in Indian Social & Economic History, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Indra Munshi, “Patrick Geddes: Sociologist, Environmentalist, Town Planner” in Economic & Political Weekly, Vol.35, No.6, 5 February 2000.

Ramachandra Guha, “Patrick Geddes and Ecological Town Planning in India”, paper given at the MIT Seminar on Environmental & Agricultural History, March 2006

TOWN PLANNING REPORTS BY PATRICK GEDDES

Geddes, Reports on Re-Planning of Six Towns in Bombay Presidency, 1915. Bombay: Government of Maharashtra Urban Development and Public Health Dept, 1965.

Geddes, Town Planning in Lucknow: A Report to the Municipal Council. Lucknow: Murray’s London Printing Press, 1916.

Geddes, Report on Town Planning, Dacca. Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Depot, 1917.

Geddes (with H.V. Lanchester), Town Planning in Jubbulpore: A Report to the Municipal Committee. Jubbulpore: Hitkarini Press, 1917.

Geddes, Town Planning towards City Development: A Report to the Durbar of Indore. Indore: Holkar State Printing Press, 1918.