Session 10

C3 Cities and Communities: Unpacking the Contested Urban in South Asia

Amidst precipitating socio-political contestation, increased ascendancy of right-wing ideologies, rising hate, volatility and violence across the world, it becomes critical to pay heed to the myriad negotiations that shape everyday modes of inhabitation for different classes and communities. Our sprawling urban centres serve as ready sites, where many of these negotiations play out, spelling differential implications for different resident groups. Rooted in contemporary South Asia’s chaotic urban context, this panel seeks to explore how exclusion of particular groups is constructed and maintained, and what these processes mean for people’s everyday existence. It discusses how taut boundaries are produced and sharpened, fragmenting cities and distancing their resident groups from each other. This panel welcomes contributions that investigate the emergence of contested/fragmented urban imaginaries and spaces. It is open to proposals from a range of differing lenses. The methods of inquiry can vary, to include a range of possible options—primary field survey, data collection, ethnographic engagement, in-person interviews, archival explorations, analysis of urban planning and land use patterns, among others. The list of methodological approaches is suggestive, not restrictive in any sense. What is key is that paper proposals should concern themselves with changing urban landscapes, whether historically, politically, socially, spatially, culturally or environmentally. It will further be useful to examine the ways in which different resident groups make sense of, respond to and cope with these changes that critically inflect their everyday existence. When particular resident groups feel besieged and cornered, and fear for their physical safety within a city, it is not just their lives that are reconfigured. But, their inhabited urbanscapes also come under severe strain, often spelling deepening divisions, discord and even possible violence. Existing fault lines become sharper and new ones are created. Fraught contests are generated over cities’ histories, memories and spatialities, leading to the gradual production of fractured urbanisms and splintering of social relations. For interrogating these issues, it is important to map residents’ everyday experiences and lived realities from varying urban contexts. This can show how different resident communities perceive and imagine their cities, and their own presence within those cities. Following this line of inquiry, the panel seeks to call attention to different modes of inhabiting, navigating, engaging with and appropriating the urban. It invites paper proposals that unpack multiple ways of dwelling in and laying claims to the urban in South Asia.