Thinking Aloud is a forum for students and researchers to present their on-going work in order to receive critical feedback. Madhura Lohokare, a PhD candidate in anthropology at Syracuse University will share her on-going research on how people living in working class neighbourhoods in contemporary Pune, a city undergoing a rapid and largely unplanned transformation, experience and understand their physical spaces. How do they make their living spaces meaningful and how are their own subjectivities and identities shaped by these rapidly changing spaces?
Says Madhura: "9 months into my research, as I grope along a zig zag trajectory that fieldwork lays out before me, I find myself studying the politics of space playing out at another level in Pune city. On the one hand, this politics seeks to represent a certain vision of the ‘global’ city, clearly reflecting a neo-liberal ethos. On the other hand, this politics has also translated into an intense conflict over land as a resource, as the urban poor fight to protect their right to the city and to their land. Through an analysis of real estate advertisements and through a closer look at the slum-dwellers’ attempts to resist state rehabilitation schemes, I try to illuminate how this politics plays out in contemporary Pune. I also hope to illuminate the multiple and conflicting understandings of space that these developments bring to the fore.
In the first part of my presentation I analyse the rhetoric reflected in real estate advertisements in Pune from the last few years, to demonstrate how this rhetoric seeks to produce the city as a space inhabited by upwardly mobile, professional consumers who appreciate luxury and exclusivity. The urban poor are sought to be erased from these representations of the city, as the latter project visions of a ‘globalized’ city. I link this rhetoric to the progressive strengthening of a neo-liberal ethos in urban India, wherein the identity of the ‘common man’ is being recast in terms of a middle class consumer.
In the second part of my presentation, I introduce my work with a group of slum dwellers from various parts of Pune, who are united in their staunch resistance to rehabilitation schemes conducted under the aegis of Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA). The SRA proposes a PPP (Private Public Partnership) model of rehabilitation, which entails a far substantial role for private builders in the process of slum rehabilitation, and awards a part of the rehabilitated land to the private builder for free sale in the commercial market.
Why are the slum dwellers opposed to this scheme and what is their understanding of their space? In answering this question, I elaborate how this scheme is a continuation of the earlier representation of the city, where in chunks of city spaces would be ‘unlocked’ for private builders and upwardly mobile consumer citizens, while simultaneously pushing out the urban poor of these spaces. Based upon my work with this group, I try to illustrate how the slum dwellers’ stance represents a very different vision and understanding of city space, than the one which comes through real estate advertising and provisions of the SRA scheme."
Date: November 14, 2011
Venue: Open Space, B 301, Kanchanjunga Building, Kanchan Lane, Off Law College Rd.