SAI Anniversary Program
Between Global Aspirations and Local Realities. India’s Cities in Interdisciplinary Perspective
March 26-28, 2012
With the rapid expansion of India's urban population, the environmental effects of India's largely unplanned cities are increasing, along with their cultural and political importance, and their economic costs and potentials. This interdisciplinary conference – in which for the first time all current Professors at the South Asia Institute assemble in Delhi to discuss their views with Indian colleagues – aims at new, integrated approaches to urban research.
Much urban research is concentrated on problems of infrastructure, planning, resource utilization and the like, in a rather compartmentalized fashion. But to fully understand contemporary urban phenomena (and in order to address current problems in urban India), historical depth is required, along with an understanding of the cultural dimensions of urbanization processes.
Reflecting this assumption, the conference is organized as a series of five panels. Day one starts with historical studies of two of India's major cities (Panel 1, "Kolkata and Mumbai"), followed by a discussion of the solutions proposed to contemporary challenges to urban planning (Panel 2, "Urban Environments"). This consideration of the problems associated with urbanization in the context of the larger paradigms of ‘development’ and ‘modernization’ continues on the second day in Panels 3 ("Finance and Politics) and 4, "Cities and their Hinterlands," which looks at how rural lifestyles and practices permeate urban spaces and lifestyles. On the third day (Panel 5, "Imagining Urbanity"), we will focus on the impact of globalizing urban cultures on contemporary Indian cities, examining how imagination, propelled by media, literature and film, gives meaning to urban life, providing new transcultural paradigms and aspirations that sometimes merge with, and sometimes contradict, ‘traditional’, ‘local’ and ‘inherited’ notions of urban life.