The fabric of a city
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