Cities, Identity and the Question of Democracy: Critical Reflections from South Asia and Beyond

Source: Wikimedia Commons

PANEL 1: Contested Politics of Representation and Resistance in the City


Ajmal Khan Muslim Question on Indian Campuses: Identity, Assertion and Crisis

Smitha Waingankar Gendering Urban Local Politics: Role of Political Parties

PANEL 2: Urban Regeneration and the Politics of Social Exclusion/Inclusion

Ratoola Kundu  Innercity Redevelopment in Mumbai: Examining Ibetween Space, Gender and Class

Ipshita Basu Governmentality of Elite Utopias: How Discourse Coalitions Produce ‘Exceptional’ Spaces?

PANEL 3: Place and the (re)production of violence

Lalitha and Himanshu Urban Violence, Sociospatial transformations and the City

Dibyesh Anand Postcolonial India and the Politics of Place, Desire and Violence

PANEL 4:  Future Steps: Collaboration between TISS and University of Westminster


Himanshu and Lalitha Urban Violence, Sociospatial Transformations and the City

Ratoola Kundu  Innercity redevelopment in Mumbai: Examining Intersections between Space, Gender and Class

Governmentality of Elite Utopias: How discourse coalitions produce ‘exceptional’ spaces?

Ipshita Basu, Assistant Professor, Centre for the Study of Democracy University of Westminster

Utopian visions of cities as entrepreneurial and modern planning havens with claims to heritage and national culture are circumscribed through elite technologies of rule and governance. This paper exposes how the discourse around India’s Smart Cities project is the result of a coalition of three specific elite discourses: Narendra Modi’s technocratic nationalism, the IT sector’s technotopia and the urban middle class discourse of world class cities. These discourses originate in very different spheres of activity but elements from them have come together to produce a discourse coalition, which is institutionalised through the Smart Cities project. By unpacking evolution of this discourse coalition as a specific exercise of elite governmentality this paper reveals the production of exceptional spaces and  unimagined others in utopian urban planning projects in India today.

Muslim Question on Indian Campuses: Identity, Assertion and Crisis

Ajmal Khan, Doctoral Candidate, TISS

Entry of the students from the backward socio-economic categories do not have a long history in the Indian educational system, particularly in higher education. According to the 2001 Census, 7% of the population aged 20 years and above are graduates or hold diplomas, while only 4% among the Muslim population does. However, recently after the completion of 27% OBC reservation in the  higher educational institutions, the enrolment of the Muslim students have shown a positive trend though it is less than the enrolment of the Hindu OBC. Looking at the recent incidents happening in the different universities across India, this paper is an attempt to locate the political articulation of the Muslim students on campuses. The paper argues that, Muslim students and their political assertion has been seen entirely different from the articulation of Dalit and Adivasi students assertion of politics and identity, their politics and presence has been viewed as threat to the existing Brahminic University structure to which even Dalit and Adivasi assertions can be accommodated for a large extend.

Postcolonial India and the Politics of Place, Desire and Violence

Dibyesh Anand, Professor and Head of Department Centre for the Study of Democracy University of Westminster

Postcolonial states in South Asia privilege nationalism over democracy even as they imagine themselves as territorially bounded communities. Strong desires of patriotism, possessiveness, hubris, and jealousy are integral part of this cartographical nationalism. Violence becomes the leitmotif of territorial-cultural nationalism especially when engaging with people and communities represented as outside the nation or as resistant to the specific idea of the nation. The paper will examines the politics of place, desire and violence in imagining India as a modern postcolonial nation. 

Gendering Urban Local Politics: Role of Political Parties

Smitha Waingankar, Doctoral Candidate, TISS

This paper is an attempt to open a new line of thought in the discourse on gendered politics.  

Enhancing women’s quota at sub national level has been frequently discussed in relation to several themes like women’s empowerment, broadening base of representation and participation in decision making at local level. The increased presence of women could translate into improved ‘mediation’ for urban poor in the city; it has also been condemned as a move whose only outcome can be more victimization in male dominant, patriarchal structure of politics and so on. However there is very little focus on the actual dynamics of the transformed politics. Political parties play a key and strategic role in shaping the actual entry of women in city politics and their participation in various facets of the same. This paper begins an inquiry into this area and poses questions linked to the relationship between political parties and women.

In the backdrop of transformed structures of political power as a result of a larger shift to corporate capitalism since 1990’s; the city has turned into a space of complexities, competitions, opportunities and negotiations between scales of government (national- state- local) on one hand and, political parties- civil society organisations as well as  those holding interests in local electoral politics.  In the wake of these institutional and governance transformations, how does one situate the enhanced (50%) quota for women in city level governance? How do political parties (seen as key players of political society conceptualized by Partha Chatterjee) respond to this changing circumstances? What are their strategies and responses to gendered politics? How do they accommodate gender politics within their own structures – electoral and otherwise?  Where are elected women representatives located in these structures? How do elected women representatives and political activists perceive the role of political parties in making space for them in local politics?

The paper argues that there is a need to investigate changing relationship shared by political parties and women in politics critically to understand where women elected representatives are located in the local urban electoral politics? Further there is the need to understand how political parties accommodate gender politics in their current political structure at local level?



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