The fab­ric of a city

Domus - - CONTENTS - Text and pho­tos by Binti Singh

A re­cent book on the city of Luc­know fo­cuses on the idea of a place not only as a ge­o­graph­i­cal ter­ri­tory but as a part of peo­ple’s so­cial lives, their iden­tity, mem­ory, and a sense of be­long­ing and pride, each con­tribut­ing to place-mak­ing in spe­cific ways

Ur­ban spa­tial and cul­tural transformation, ex­pe­ri­enced in cities of the global South in­clud­ing in In­dia, res­onates with global pat­terns that have al­ready been es­tab­lished (Sassen, 1991; Castells, 1996; Har­vey, 1990; Le­feb­vre, 1996). For in­stance, Mada­nipour (2010) ob­serves that “sim­i­lar­ity be­tween cities is in the con­verg­ing meth­ods of city build­ing, in which the markets and new tech­nolo­gies are prom­i­nent” (ibid: 14). These trans­for­ma­tions have left cities in In­dia un­set­tled in many ways. Luc­know, the cap­i­tal of Ut­tar Pradesh, and his­tor­i­cal, cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal epi­cen­ter of North In­dia af­ter New Delhi, is one such city. Con­cerns over changes, par­tic­u­larly ob­served in cities, from place (hav­ing shared mean­ings) to space (ab­stract and im­per­sonal) have been ex­pressed in lit­er­a­ture on ur­ban stud­ies (Jacobs, 1961; Sitte, 1986; Massey, 1994). With changes set in mo­tion by the forces of glob­al­i­sa­tion (es­pe­cially cul­tural ones), eco­nomic lib­er­al­i­sa­tion and po­lit­i­cal re­struc­tur­ing over the last two decades, Luc­know has been sub­jected to the ex­pe­ri­ence of un­set­tled par­tic­u­larly in the form of dis­rup­tion and rup­ture in its ur­ban cul­ture. If “cul­ture is a phe­nom­e­non that tends to have in­tensely place­spe­cific char­ac­ter­is­tics thereby help­ing to dif­fer­en­ti­ate places from

one an­other” (Scott, 1997: 394), then one can ar­gue that di­lu­tion of cul­ture re­sults in the loss of sense of place. Given the ho­mogenis­ing ten­dency of cul­tural glob­al­i­sa­tion that com­pels cities in In­dia to re­sem­ble any other glob­alised city with its rapidly trans­form­ing cityscape and di­lu­tion of lo­cal cul­ture, how does the con­tem­po­rary city in In­dia main­tain its par­tic­u­larised char­ac­ter? While ex­am­in­ing this cen­tral ques­tion, this study threads to­gether di­verse the­o­ret­i­cal strands — namely city brand­ing ex­er­cises as part of at­tract­ing in­vest­ments fol­low­ing the ne­olib­eral logic; glob­al­i­sa­tion and the im­pe­tus for place-based cul­ture in­dus­tries; cit­i­zens’ ac­tivisms as part of cre­at­ing so­cial sol­i­dar­i­ties and fi­nally res­ur­rec­tion of the idea of place not only as a ge­o­graph­i­cal ter­ri­tory but as a part of peo­ple’s so­cial lives, their iden­tity, mem­ory, sense of be­long­ing and pride, each con­tribut­ing to place-mak­ing in spe­cific ways. Chap­ters in this vol­ume ex­am­ine each of these the­o­ret­i­cal strands backed with em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence from con­tem­po­rary Luc­know. The in­ter­twined ef­fects of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion pro­cesses and the ever-in­creas­ing cul­tural con­tent of out­put, and the ways in which these play out in dif­fer­ent em­pir­i­cal city con­texts with im­pli­ca­tions in the growth and de­vel­op­ment of places has been the sub­ject of schol­arly work. How­ever, this has mostly been in the ur­ban con­text of the global North ei­ther as the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of his­tor­i­cal her­itage or as large-scale pub­lic in­vest­ment in arte­facts of col­lec­tive cul­tural con­sump­tion in the in­ter­ests of ur­ban ren­o­va­tion (Bas­sett, 1993; Bian­chini, 1993; Frith, 1991; Kearns and Philo, 1993; Landry and Bian­chini, 1995; Moulin­ier, 1996; Wynne, 1992). Cities world­wide re­spond dif­fer­ently to the ho­mogenis­ing ten­den­cies of glob­al­i­sa­tion. Cities

of the global South in­clud­ing the sec­ond-tier cities of In­dia like Luc­know, Jaipur and Su­rat, are as­pir­ing to be­come global cities through bor­rowed images from big­ger cities in an at­tempt to repli­cate them or through di­rect im­agery sup­plied from the In­ter­net and me­dia. These changes brought about by glob­al­i­sa­tion at vary­ing de­grees and in dif­fer­ent ways qual­ify them what Ap­padu­rai (2000) calls “as images of glob­al­i­sa­tion that are cracked and re­fracted” (ibid:628). Re­cent schol­arly at­ten­tion to cities of the global South and the im­pos­si­ble het­ero­gene­ity of Asian cities has brought about what many de­scribe as the South­ern turn in ur­ban the­ory. Read­ing cities as or­di­nary cities (Robin­son, 2006) has opened the pos­si­bil­i­ties of un­der­stand­ing cities be­yond the global cities par­a­digm, break­ing away from the clutches of hi­er­ar­chy and the projects of de­velop men­tal­ism and moder­nity it­self. Cities, es­pe­cially those of the global South that do not tra­di­tion­ally clas­sify as com­mand and con­trol cen­tres or as cul­tural cap­i­tals in the global cities par­a­digm, are gen­er­at­ing new in­ter­est among ur­ban schol­ars. Cities that have been off the in­tel­lec­tual maps are now be­ing in­creas­ingly in­cluded, cel­e­brated, an­a­lysed and ex­am­ined. Schol­arly lit­er­a­ture based on such in­ves­ti­ga­tions have en­riched ur­ban the­ory greatly and in­formed myr­iad the­o­ret­i­cal per­spec­tives rang­ing from place and place-mak­ing and ur­ban cul­tures (Fried­man, 2010; Zukin, 1995; Massey,2010) to ur­ban economies as spaces of in­for­mal enterprise, in­for­mal habi­ta­tion, po­lit­i­cal agency, deep democ­racy (Ben­jamin, 2000; Ap­padu­rai, 2001; Pa­tel et al., 2015) sub­al­tern ur­ban­ism (Roy, 2011), and the world­ing of cities (Ong and Roy, 2011). Ex­ist­ing lit­er­a­ture on ur­ban trans­for­ma­tions in re­la­tion to the forces of glob­al­i­sa­tion is con­fined to mega cities and met­ro­pol­i­tan cities of In­dia like Mum­bai, Delhi, Ban­ga­lore, Hy­der­abad and Kolkata. The forces of glob­al­i­sa­tion are surely not con­fined to these big cities and have touched sec­ond-tier cities like Luc­know, Jaipur, Su­rat and many more. Re­search ex­am­in­ing ur­ban spa­tial poli­cies and prac­tices us­ing the­o­ret­i­cal per­spec­tives from so­ci­ol­ogy and ur­ban stud­ies, es­pe­cially in sec­ondtier cities of In­dia, are rare. This study sets the ball rolling in that di­rec­tion and hope­fully we will see more stud­ies on these cities in the fu­ture. More­over, the im­pli­ca­tions of cul­tural glob­al­i­sa­tion on In­dian cities have also not re­ceived any schol­arly at­ten­tion. Fur­ther, the way cities in In­dia are chang­ing as a re­sponse to global forces is also far from univer­sal. While it is es­tab­lished that met­ros and big cities in In­dia have global link­ages, sec­ond-tier cities are also wit­ness­ing in­creas­ing global link­ages brought about by trade, business, and tourism. Cities in In­dia are grad­u­ally ac­cept­ing their dif­fer­ences and cel­e­brat­ing this as di­ver­sity. The grow­ing in­ter­est in her­itage, in­tan­gi­ble cul­ture, tourism and brand­ing around place-spe­cific cul­tures are the var­ied re­sponses wit­nessed in pre­sent-day ur­ban In­dia. These myr­iad re­sponses call for con­text/cityspe­cific re­search in­ves­ti­ga­tions that pro­vide the ra­tio­nale for this study. Based on ethno­graphic re­search, this vol­ume ex­am­ines the vi­tal link­ages be­tween the con­cepts of cul­ture, place, brand­ing and ac­tivism in the back­drop of neo-lib­eral ur­ban tra­jec­tory in the global South. Cul­ture re­mains a con­tested ter­rain, used and ap­pro­pri­ated by var­ied groups for var­ied pur­poses. The study ar­gues how cul­tural poli­cies and prac­tices (both at the level of govern­ment and also at the level of cit­i­zens) in pre­sent-day Luc­know help res­ur­rect the idea of place and place-mak­ing which marks a sig­nif­i­cant turn in the his­tory of Luc­know that re­quires schol­arly at­ten­tion. The study is a pioneer­ing ef­fort in this arena with the hope that this re­search will prove to be ben­e­fi­cial for re­searchers and stu­dents who would like to ex­tend it to other sec­ond tier cities of In­dia. It could also be a use­ful re­source for ur­ban plan­ners, pol­icy mak­ers, govern­ment of­fi­cials, com­mu­nity prac­ti­tion­ers, ar­chi­tects and ur­ban de­sign­ers- all of whom en­vi­sion the fu­ture of In­dia’s cities in dif­fer­ent ways.

Un­like the newly de­vel­oped cap­i­tal cities of Chandi­garh, Gand­hi­na­gar and Bhubanesh­war, Luc­know was not a lab­o­ra­tory for ur­ban ex­per­i­ments for a long time af­ter In­dia’s in­de­pen­dence in 1947. The city suf­fered as a re­sult of po­lit­i­cal ne­glect and ad­min­is­tra­tive ap­a­thy. With­out any sig­nif­i­cant in­dus­trial base, the city con­tin­ued to serve only as the ad­min­is­tra­tive and po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal of the state of Ut­tar Pradesh. The city once fa­mous for its chikankari em­broi­dery, cui­sine and Nawabi eti­quette be­gan to fade away from pub­lic mem­ory ex­cept dur­ing the oc­ca­sional elec­tion fer­vour. Cul­tur­ally the city re­mained tucked away in the shad­ows of its past with­out any sig­nif­i­cant mo­ments un­til a per­cep­ti­ble turn post 1990s. With lib­er­al­i­sa­tion and the on­slaught of global forces, Luc­know wit­nessed a real es­tate boom and the en­try of pri­vate play­ers. A se­ries of ur­ban de­vel­op­ment projects rang­ing from new pub­lic build­ings, residential and com­mer­cial com­plexes and phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture like roads and fly­overs rolled out that have helped pull the city out of its lull in the pe­riod post 1990s. Neo-lib­eral eco­nomic com­pul­sions com­mod­ify the built en­vi­ron­ment of the city, and brand it for mul­ti­ple pur­poses. These in­clude new spaces as cul­tural sym­bols like the Gomti River­front, Awadh Shilp Gram, Jayprakash Narayan In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre, up­com­ing mu­se­ums and sta­di­ums; pub­lic parks and memo­ri­als in the newer parts of the city as mark­ers of iden­tity and em­pow­er­ment un­der spe­cific po­lit­i­cal regimes and pub­lic of­fice build­ings like the Right to In­for­ma­tion Bha­van and the mas­sive High Court Com­plex as ex­am­ples of us­ing

space for re­in­force­ment of power and brand­ing. The hor­i­zon­tal limit of Luc­know is fast ex­pand­ing res­onat­ing with the peri-ur­ban­i­sa­tion pro­cesses in other cities of In­dia with marked vis­i­ble spa­tial changes — up­mar­ket residential com­plexes, golf cour­ses, com­mer­cial com­plexes, of­fices, schools, hos­pi­tals, town­ships, fly­overs and ex­press­ways. -----Cur­rent brand­ing has sub­jected Luc­know to new imag­i­na­tions — a smart city, a mod­ern city with global as­pi­ra­tions, a her­itage city, new eco­nomic hub, film des­ti­na­tion, and cul­tural cap­i­tal of In­dia. Cul­ture as a com­plex ma­trix of sym­bols, images and rep­re­sen­ta­tions travers­ing the ter­rains of his­tory and ge­og­ra­phy is ap­pro­pri­ated in cur­rent ur­ban pol­icy and prac­tice. The cur­rent brand­ing ex­er­cises in the form of de­ploy­ing ur­ban de­sign to cre­ate new spaces, tap­ping on in­tan­gi­ble cul­ture like rit­u­als and tra­di­tions (in­sti­tu­tion­alised as the Her­itage Arc in 2014), rein­vent­ing fes­ti­vals (Mango fes­ti­val, Lit­er­a­ture fes­ti­val, Luc­know Ma­hot­sav and many more) around cul­tural sym­bols, or re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of her­itage sites (like Qais­erbagh) ap­pear as des­per­ate and ag­gres­sive at­tempts to carve out an iden­tity for the city. These mea­sures are di­rected to at­tract fresh in­vest­ments, funds un­der the cur­rent Smart Cities Pro­gram and re­lated schemes, grants from other agen­cies. The neo-lib­eral logic of spa­tial prac­tices re­lated to the cul­tural sym­bols also in­forms ci­ti­zen-driven cul­tural ac­tivism cur­rently wit­nessed in con­tem­po­rary Luc­know. The emer­gence of new ci­ti­zen-driven as­so­ci­a­tions, their spa­tial prac­tices around spe­cific cul­tural sym­bols of

spaces like parks, gar­dens, kunds and wells, clubs and sin­gle-screen cin­ema halls and in­tan­gi­ble cul­ture ren­der a unique place-based cul­tural iden­tity to Luc­know. These spaces are in­creas­ingly sub­jected to com­mer­cial com­pul­sions, giv­ing way to new uses, de­vel­op­ments, or sim­ply left to di­lap­i­date, crum­ble and fall. The in­ner core of Chowk, Aminabad and Hus­sai na bad with their bust ling so­cial life, eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties, chaotic ev­ery­day ur­ban is ms are quin­tes­sen­tial fea­tures of the South­ern city. En­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit and neo-lib­eral logic re­flect in the pres­ence of in­nu­mer­able arts and crafts and prac­tis­ing crafts­men still liv­ing and work­ing in those ar­eas that are sim­ply ‘for­got­ten’. Luc­know, like many other sec­ond tier cities of In­dia is han­ker­ing for tourist foot­falls, for in­vest­ments and for gen­er­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for its young­sters who are mi­grat­ing and re­lo­cat­ing else­where. The book ends with rec­om­men­da­tions like en­cour­ag­ing cre­ative in­dus­tries, in­te­grat­ing lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and map­ping their en­ter­prises, pro­mot­ing in­clu­sive tourism with ex­am­ples of pro poor tourism projects cur­rently op­er­a­tional in the state of UP, re­gen­er­a­tion of in­ner cities, fo­cussing on in­te­grated con­ser­va­tion, and thrust on re­search and de­vel­op­ment. These are cru­cial ar­eas of in­ter­ven­tion that could go a long way to de­ter­mine fu­ture path­ways if Luc­know seeks to cap­i­tal is eon its cul­ture and aims to build its eco­nomic model around it.

This page, top: The rapid transformation of sec­ondtier cities such as Luc­know has given rise to a real es­tate boom and bur­geon­ing con­struc­tion projects Op­po­site page: Pre­sent-day Luc­know is a city of con­trasts with marked dis­tinc­tions be­tween old and new ter­ri­to­ries. The mo­hal­las, to­las, ganjs, street markets (bazaars), gul­lies, van­ish­ing spaces like parks, kunds and wells, clubs and sin­gle­screen cin­e­mas and in­tan­gi­ble cul­ture ren­der a unique place-based cul­tural iden­tity to Luc­know

This page, right: an im­age of the cover of the book Left and be­low: The in­ner core of Chowk, Aminabad and Hus­sain­abad with their bustling so­cial life, eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties, and chaotic ev­ery­day ur­banisms are quin­tes­sen­tial fea­tures of the South­ern city. En­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit and neo-lib­eral logic re­flect in the pres­ence of sev­eral arts and crafts and prac­tis­ing crafts­men still liv­ing and work­ing in those ar­eas that are sim­ply ‘for­got­ten’

This page, clock­wise from top: Qais­erbagh Chau­raha in Old Luc­know; pre­sent-day Luc­know is a city of con­trasts with marked dis­tinc­tions be­tween old and new ter­ri­to­ries; a work-in­progress gated com­mu­nity in the city; Wal­mart, Luc­know; ow­ing to the real es­tate boom, con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity is now very ram­pant

This page, clock­wise from top: New High Court Com­plex in Gomti Na­gar, Luc­know; a house in the in­ner city; the transformation of the Gomti river­front Op­po­site page: gul­lies and to­las in Old Luc­know

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