Mumbai Workshop on Subaltern Urbanism

January 7, 2013 - 9:00am to January 10, 2013 - 5:00pm
Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai

Columbia Global Centers | South Asia based in Mumbai is hosting a closed-door workshop on “Subaltern Urbanism," with the support of Studio X (Mumbai) and the project on "Women Creating Change" housed at Columbia's Center for the Study of Social Difference. The workshop focuses on the methodology and theoretical concerns of a year-long faculty workshop supported by the Heyman Center for the Humanities. Workshop convenors include Saidiya Hartman, Anupama Rao, and Neferti Tadiar.

The Mumbai workshop seeks to anchor broader questions about city theory around a more localized set of concerns around survival, social difference, and emergent forms of sociality as these are impacting cities of the global South under conditions of neoliberal transformation. We are interested in exploration of “the urban” as a historic and contemporary form of life; as a set of protocols for living implicit in the organization of the built environment, the management of human movement and density, and the creation and facilitation of sociality through means of communication and exchange. Typically, studies of global urbanity focus on issues such as accelerated migration, resource provision, and rising socio-ethnic conflict enabled by subalterns’ access to new technologies of violence. Instead, our aim for the workshop is two-fold:

  • The first is to ask how we might we deploy theories of comparison and connection to illuminate shared histories of precarity and stigmatized life across the East/West divide, by addressing spatial unevenness as a grounding condition for the production of racial and colonial “difference.”
  • Following on this, we will focus on those practices of embodiment and inhabitation we term “subaltern urbanism.” These encompass complex relations of conflict and transaction between dominant protocols for organizing life, and practices of survival by those targeted for relocation and elimination from the city, who are subject to various zoning as well as coding practices.

The Mumbai workshop brings together a group of local scholars, artists, and activists to explore themes of built planning and infrapolitics; the relationship of political violence to new formations of social and spatial segregation; the relationship of gender and inhabitation; political aesthetics that consider archives of sound, voice, and visual culture, and issues in comparative urbanism (with specific focus on the racialized spaces of the United States and South Africa.)