Friday, December 7, 2007

The Transformation of Housing

There's plenty to read into this photograph of housing in Prabhadevi: three stages in the development of housing in Mumbai; a steady increase in building heights; neighborhood change; from low-income to for-sale housing; and, climatically responsive architecture to universal, normative solutions.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Interesting conference

Here is the announcement for what promises to be a very interesting conference that provides the opportunity to look at Mumbai from an inter-Asian, global perspective.




Aihwa Ong ( and Ananya Roy( University of California, Berkeley

The 21st century will be an urban century and more significant, it will
be a century of Asian urbanization. The growth of Asian cities prompts
the need for a research agenda that pays careful attention to the
processes and forms of urbanism that are forming at such sites. The
analytical framework of "global cities," which is in currency, fails to
capture the role of Asian cities as "worlding" nodes: those that create
global connections and global regimes of value. In particular, it
fails to notice the ways in which Asian cities produce global urbanism
through experiments of inter-referencing whereby urban elites borrow,
copy, and articulate city-making across national borders. In the
dynamic context of such inter-Asian aspirations, Dubai, Singapore, and
Shanghai emerge as "models" while aspiring cities undertake slum
demolitions, invest in premium urban infrastructure, woo investors
through special economic zones, deploy high-style architecture to
create an urban brand, and compete for professionals in the bid to
create world-class economies. Such a production of space has profound
implications for the future of Asian cities: to whom will the city
belong? What will be the relationship between cities and citizenship?

We propose a workshop that focuses on the urban experiment that is the
Asian city. We invite paper proposals that address the following
1) The "worlding" role of Asian cities in the age of late capitalism
with a particular emphasis on the inter-city borrowings, linkages, and
competitions that drive globalization across Asia. How is such
inter-referencing driven by elite actors, by the state, and by the
circulation of professionals and managers? What are the aesthetic
icons and symbols associated with Asian urban aspirations? In other
words, what is the "art of being global" that is being cultivated at
the site of the Asian city?

2) The types of displacements that are emerging in such Asian cities,
ranging from the flows of labor that service the success and prosperity
of cities to the displacement being engendered by the development of
enclave urbanism. What are the social and political limits of such
displacements? How is the politics of displacement mediated by civil
society actors that operate both within and across particular Asian
cities? What are the forms of urban mobilization that are coalescing
around the modality of displacement?

The sheer political ambition of their urban experimentations suggests a
focus on the United Emirates, India, China, and Southeast Asia, but not
exclusively. We invite scholars from anthropology, urban planning,
architecture, sociology, geography, and cultural studies, as well as
civil society actors, cultural producers, and professionals who are
directly engaged in projects of inter-Asia city-making.
Paper submissions can be focused on a single city or can be comparative
and transnational in nature. Our workshop will foster interactions
that can lead to collaborations, resulting in a new field of
>Inter-Asian Urban Studies. We plan an edited volume that will be the
>first study of this new South-South urban renaissance and the worlding
>ambitions of Asian cities.
>Applications are due on Friday, September 14, 2007. They must be
>submitted directly to SSRC. For more information, see

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Focus Mumbai - A Call for Ideas

About a month ago, I was in Mumbai in the office of architect, activist, and urban planner PK Das, to research and write about public housing and public space in Mumbai through two projects that I had worked with him on almost a decade ago – the Bandra Bandstand Seafront and the Chandivali Slum Rehabilitation project. I was talking to PK about a wide range of subjects related to the city of Mumbai, and visiting as I was from the US the topic inadvertently veered towards globalization and its effects on city planning, urban design and architecture. Over the course of a couple of days—somewhat by chance—we were joined by two more individuals who were studying and writing about Mumbai. (PK’s office is a Mumbai hot spot, where a numerous visiting scholars, activists, journalists, architects and planners from around the world seem to convene to learn more about the myriad aspects of the city.) Nicolas was/is doing comparative research on slums and housing policy in India and Brazil and Maura was interested in studying one of the most remarkable building types that make up the city of Mumbai – its Chawls: worker housing built in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Our meeting shifted to the newly revamped Phoenix Mills where the discussion coalesced into the thought of creating a forum dedicated to ideas on/about the city of Mumbai. We discussed how a focus at the local level had led to global perspectives—slums, for instance—and how global capital was radically altering the cityscape at an unprecedented rate creating a very unique moment in the history of the city that had to, somehow, be captured. We thought of initiating a forum that would capture this change, the various global perspectives, and speak of the city through manifold lenses ranging from urban geography and anthropology to architecture and art. We wanted to invite various voices to contribute to evolving ideas that discusses forms, events and processes of the city.

The outcome was a blog with multiple authors, each bringing a unique (world) view, from the outside, looking in. During the course of the meeting while I was frantically taking notes on white paper napkins (a la architects sketch) Nicolas whipped out the perfect notebook, which is now the record of that meeting and an inspiration to take it forward. Let’s see where it goes.