Winter Institute 2019 – Incrementalism and the changing city

Students of Masters in Urban Policy and Governance, Archana Balachandran, Milan Sharma, Roopkatha Kar, and Vipul Kumar.

How do cities grow and change over time? How do people create neighbourhoods and memories of place? How do the constantly shifting city – new buildings, new roads, new parks, demolition of old buildings, affect how people live their lives and make meaning of their place in the city? These were some questions that students of the Masters program in Urban Policy and Governance at TISS Mumbai sought to pursue in this year’s edition of the Winter Institute, a fortnight long fieldwork based research study in the city of Hyderabad. The study was organised in collaboration with the Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL) – a Hyderabad-based research organization that studies the challenges of contemporary urbanization. The theme of Winter Institute 2019 is Incrementalism as a strategy of urbanisation. In recent years, incrementality has become a powerful idea to understand the city as a complex and continually changing system where people, particularly the poor and the marginal, exercise their agency in gradually making their habitat – whether it is growing and diversifying their small informal businesses, or building and extending infrastructures and their homes in the city, or in consolidating their identities and community through layers of documentation and creating associational life. Students explored this and examined the relevance of the concept, the limits of incrementalism, and challenge the idea the incrementalism reinforces status quo. The goal was to see how the presence of large numbers of people in the urban arena is anchored in social and material practices that are difficult to capture in terms of formal politics. The field site was Lakdi Ka Pul – one of the oldest, diverse and dynamic suburbs of Hyderabad. The 3 credit course is central to the pedagogy of the program and offers students a practice aligned approach to understanding urban processes and transformations. The course is designed to introduce students to field work and encourage them to adopt participatory, interactive and creative research approaches. Here we bring to you some of the reflections from the field work by our students through a series of blog posts. These blogs highlight the processes of knowing and writing the city – and sharing knowledge about the urban that is informed by a deep understanding of everyday lives and practices.

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