Bombay to Mumbai: The Unhomely City and the Space of the Everyday
If Mumbai points to the future of urban civilization on the planet, Suketu Mehta writes, “God help us.” He is not alone in his foreboding about the implications of urban growth, of Bombay becoming “Slumbay.” Mike Davis offers a bleak account of what this means for the Global South in his contemporary classic, Planet of Slums. Powerful as his critique is, it is worth remembering that the cities of poor regions have long served as sources of dystopic fantasies. In this talk, I examine the transition of Bombay to Mumbai at the level of the everyday. I focus on everyday life because it is there that large historical changes and power relations make their presence felt; it is this space that powerful political and economic forces seek to control and change. However, it is for the same reason that it is in this quotidian space that you find lived experiences and imaginations that cope with these powerful forces. It is also there that you encounter the “soft city” of urban desires and dreams; it is there that you find the politics of survival and aspirations. My talk will focus on this politics of survival as Bombay becomes Mumbai.
Gyan Prakash is the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History at Princeton University. He specialises in the history of modern India. His general field of research and teaching interests concerns urban modernity, the colonial genealogies of modernity, and problems of postcolonial thought and politics. He is the author of Bonded Histories: Genealogies of Labor Servitude in Colonial India (1990), and Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India (1999), and has co-authored a book on world history, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart (2002). He has also written several articles on South Asian colonial history and on the relationship between colonialism and history writing, and edited several volumes of essays, including After Colonialism: Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacements (1995) and The Spaces of the Modern City (2008). In addition to writing for scholarly journals, his reviews and essays also appear in general publications such as Times of India, Hindustan Times, Asian Age, Hindu, India Today, Timeout Mumbai, American Scholar, and The Nation.
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