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<nettime-ann> By-Pass: Everyday Life and Contemporary Urbanism in India
Eric Kluitenberg on Tue, 11 Nov 2008 18:48:07 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime-ann> By-Pass: Everyday Life and Contemporary Urbanism in India and China, Final Program & Abstracts - De Balie, Amsterdam, November 15

F  I  N  A  L    P  R  O  G  R  A  M    &    A  B  S  T  R  A  C  T  S

Everyday Life and Contemporary Urbanism in India and China

International symposium

De Balie, Amsterdam
Saturday November 15; Time | 10.00 - 17.00 hrs
Admission | € 17,50 / 12,50  (including lunch)

For the first time the majority of the world population today lives in  
cities. A significant part of the new urban expansion in the past  
decade has been in Asia, where urban expansion, crisis and mass  
migration emerged in the context of a boom culture.

By-Pass is an international symposium about urban culture and everyday  
life in the rapidly transforming mega cities of India and China. The  
symposium will bring together a renowned group of scholars and  
practitioners to examine these changes specifically at the ground  
level. Here, urban structures are continuously reconfigured by 'the  
Bypass'. The bypass is not formal, but at the same time, more than the  
informal forms that have always existed in cities. The Bypass is a  
tactic that is deployed by all kinds of urban groups - slum dwellers  
engaging in incremental development; street level entrepreneurs  
establishing newer networks of production and selling; civil society  
organisations and formal planners short-circuiting policy and planning  
processes, private and governmental agencies employing tactical ways  
to assemble land, urban media forms that disrupt official channels  
etc. The language of the Bypass cannot be articulated through  
mainstream ideas of formality, legality, planning, public etc. - it  
warrants a newer creative engagement. Asian cities offer an important  
site for this engagement.

The symposium will focus on discussing and engaging with the  
complexities of the Bypass. This will be done through an exploration  
of newer ideas on incrementality, entrepreneurship, piracy, mapping,  
networks, media-urbanism and image of the city by architects,  
urbanists, historians, geographers and media scholars.

By-Pass is organised by De Balie in Amsterdam in collaboration with  
Sarai in Delhi and CRIT in Mumbai.

Awadhendra Sharan (Historian, Delhi), Juan Du (Architectural theorist,  
University of Hong Kong), Martijn de Waal (Media scholar, Amsterdam /  
University of Groningen), Prasad Shetty (CRIT, Mumbai), Ranjani  
Mazumdar (Film maker and theoretician, Delhi), Ravi Sundaram (Sarai,  
Delhi), Rupali Gupte (Architect, Mumbai), Solomon Benjamin (Political  
scientist Bangalore / University of Toronto), Wing-Shing Tang (Social  
geographer, Hong Kong),.

Symposium editors: Prasad Shetty (CRIT); Ravi Sundaram (Sarai); Merijn  
Oudenampsen (Urban sociologist); Eric Kluitenberg (De Balie).

A web dossier has been set up for the symposium, which brings together  
various background materials: www.debalie.nl/bypass.

The symposium can also be followed live via internet at: www.debalie.nl/live 
. Recordings of the symposium will later be made available in the web  



Awadhendra Sharan is a historian and Fellow at the Centre for the  
Study of Developing Societies (Delhi, India). His work involves  
research that connects environmental issues to urban space, with  
reference to the city of Delhi. He also works with Sarai, Delhi and  
offers guest lectures at the School of Planning and Architecture,  
Delhi and School of Environmental Studies, Delhi University.

Juan Du is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture,  
University of Hong Kong and Principal of IDU architecture. She teaches  
architectural design and contemporary urban theory. She has practiced  
and taught in the United States, Europe and China and co-curated  
“Performative-Cities" in the 2007 Shenzen - Hong Kong Biennale

Martijn de Waal is a researcher on urban and social issues and digital  
media at the University of Groningen and the University of Amsterdam.  
Contributed an essay on Chinese urban visuality to the recent  
anthology "The Chinese Dream" published by the Dynamic City Foundation  
(Rotterdam / Beijing), Fall 2008.

Ranjani Mazumdar is an Independent Filmmaker & Associate Professor of  
Cinema Studies at the School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru  
University (New Delhi, India). Her publications and films focus on  
urban culture, popular cinema, gender and the cinematic city. She is  
the author of "Bombay Cinema: An Archive of the City" (University of  
Minnesota Press, 2007). Her current research focuses on globalization  
and film culture, film and history and Bombay's cinematic city in the  

Rick Dolphijn is assistant professor at Humanities, Utrecht  
University, where he lectures and writes on communication theory,  
cultural theory, philosophy of science, media theory, linguistics, art  
and cultural studies. He has visited and studied cities in China and  
India and has written on Asian urbanism and Deleuzian theory in  
architecture magazine Volume, amongst others.

Rupali Gupte is an architect and urbanist. She works is a Senior  
Lecturer at the Kamala Raheja Institute of Architecture (Mumbai,  
India) and is also an executive member of CRIT, Mumbai. As an urban  
researcher she has worked in India and Africa and lectured at UK, US,  
and the Netherlands. She recently showed a work on mapping post  
industrial landscapes at Manifesta 7: The European Art Biennale in  
Italy, Her works includes studies of housing types in Mumbai, a novel  
on a semi-fictional history of Mumbai's urbanism and writing on the  
city's tactical infrastructures.

Solomon Benjamin is an Assistant Professor at the Department of  
Political Science, University of Toronto. He researches the way land  
(mostly incrementally developed), economy (mostly constituted around  
small inter-connected firms), locates in a mainstream 'everyday  
politics'. Disrupting high modernism. The emergent urbanism poses new  
conceptual spaces beyond the current anxiety with progressive policy  
and activism.

Wing Shing Tang is Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Hong  
Kong Baptist University. His research focuses on urban (re)development  
and planning in Hong Kong and mainland China. Current research  
projects include "land (re)development in Hong Kong: the land  
(re)development regime, hegemonic construction and the people",  
"utopian urbanism in Hong Kong", "the geographies of power of  
sustainable development in Hong Kong: an inside-out approach", "the  
urban revolution in China: meeting Foucault with Gramsci and Lefebvre",



10.00 - 10.30

The Conference as intervention
Eric Kuitenberg

The problematic of Asian Urbanism
Ravi Sundaram

Session 1 - Setting the Frame
Prasad Shetty (Moderator)

10.30 - 10.50
Three Petitions and a City: the Public and the Private
Awadhendra Sharan

10.50 - 11.10
People's Activities in an Urban Village in Guangzhou: Beyond Informality
Wing Shing Tang

11.10 - 11.30
Indian & Chinese Occupancy Urbanism: Disrupting the Nation State &  
appropriating High Modernism
Solomon Benjamin

11.30 - 11.50
Back to the Future
Juan Du

11.50 - 12.30

12.30 - 13.30 - LUNCH BREAK

Session 2 - Imagining the City
Eric Kluitenberg (moderator)

13.30 - 13.50
Workforms + Playforms
Rupali Gupte

13.50 - 14.10
Two City Forms: Axionometric Vision and Linear Perspective
Rick Dolphijn

14.10 - 14.30
The Urban Fringe
Ranjani Mazumdar

14.30 - 14-50
Green Tea, Black Coffee, Splendid Cities?
Urban culture in contemporary Chinese visual culture
Martijn De Waal

14.50 - 15.30

15.30 - 16.00 - BREAK

Session 3 - Open Session & Closing Discussion
Merijn Oudenampsen
16.00 - 17.00
Round-Table with Solomon Benjamin, Rupali Gupte, Juan Du, Rick  
Dolphijn & Ravi Sundaram



Three Petitions and a City

In December1985 oleum gas leaked from a unit of the Shriram Foods and  
Fertilisers industry located in Delhi. Coincidentally, earlier the  
same year the lawyer-activist M. C. Mehta had filed a public petition  
before the Supreme Court of India arguing that the operations of the  
factory were hazardous for the communities that lived in the  
vicinity.  In that same year, Mehta filed two other writ petitions,  
subsequently referred to as the Delhi land Use Case and Vehicular  
Pollution case.  I will address these three petitions, in their  
invocation of the idea of 'public', in this presentation.  The  
presentation is by way of an initial inquiry into the limit of the  
idea of the 'public' to suggest other ways in which we may imagine a  
new project of the commons in the contemporary.

Mehta had suffered no personal injury.  He spoke instead as a citizen,  
acting as a custodian of public rights and interests.  The burden of  
the petitions was several.  Local authorities had failed to discharge  
their public functions.   Smoke and highly toxic gases were being  
allowed to pass into the air and effluents were being discharged into  
the water.  Industries, both hazardous and illegal, were functioning  
unchecked in the city, posing constant danger to millions of people  
and causing diseases ranging from tuberculosis to asthama, skin  
diseases to cancer. Toxic wastes, their collection, treatment and  
disposal, were ill attended to. There were also problems in the rural  
areas of the city, with many legal and illegal insecticide units  
operating in them.  Humans were not alone to suffer, Mehta argued, the  
toxics affecting tress, shrubs and agricultural crops too.  Historic  
sites of the city - the Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Old Fort, India Gate  
and Jantar Mantar - were also mute sufferers.

My presentation is about the slippages between the different terms  
deployed in Mehta's petition - polluting, hazardous, (il)legal,  
dangerous, (un)safe, rural/urban to argue that it is precisely through  
such slippages that what is imagined as the 'public interest' related  
to the 'environment' remains always necessarily enmeshed in other  
dimensions of the urban everyday that are about spaces for living and  
work, modes of travel and recreation.  Indeed, I shall argue, the plea  
for better environment may potentially also pose new risks for these  
other spaces/ modes of being.

One response to this, in India and elsewhere, has been to re-enact the  
public, through arguments roughly phrased as 'claims to the city.'   
This, I shall suggest, is increasingly inadequate both in terms of  
understanding the contemporary everyday and as a mode of intervention  
in it.

Back to the Future
Juan Du

With an official municipal history of only 25 years, Shenzhen's  
stunning speed of urban development has been the subject of much  
analysis and debate.  While some applaud the city as a successful  
model of modern planning in Asia, others consider it devoid of history  
and culture.  However, these opposing positions overlook the very  
complex and nuanced process of urbanization that is contemporary  
Shenzhen.  The historical presence and transformations of the former  
agrarian villages within the city is one of the most important  
instruments for the on-going urbanization process in Shenzhen.   
Developed outside of the jurisdiction of municipal planning and  
regulations, these village sites have each become urban environments  
in their own right, together presenting a rich variety of informal  
modes of urbanization.  Analysis of these village sites presents a re- 
evaluation of existing theories on the development process of Shenzhen  
and demands radical reformation to the process of modern urban planning.

Green Tea, Black Coffee, Splendid Cities?
Urban culture in contemporary Chinese visual culture

In the past decade or so, China, a country of farmers, has become a  
nation dominated by megacities. Where once farmers plowed the yellow  
earth, now mirror-glassed high rises have appeared to demarcate yet  
another emerging 'CBD' (Central Business District). Official ideology  
- and its visual culture - saw a similar turn. Up to the era of the  
cultural revolution, the countryside was eulogized, cities were  
vilified. Now modern cities are portrayed as places of joy, as sites  
where one can gloriously get rich. Postcards, tv series, billboards,  
city marketing videofilms eagerly portray this newly minted Chinese  
Dream of middle class life in a modern urban setting. But how do these  
representations relate to more direct experiences of city life? And  
where can we find the dissonants to this new official urban mythology?
In the work of some  contemporary Chinese artists and filmmakers we  
find a more critical eye on the new urban society that is emerging in  

The Urban Fringe

Globalization in India has brought about many shifts in the nature of  
the relationship between cinema and the urban experience. These shifts  
need to be located within a map where the expansion of television, the  
rise of multiplexes, the global circulation of DVDs and the rise of a  
new cinephile culture, have led to speculations about a new imaginary  
film spectator who can handle a different kind of cinema in India. It  
is this contemporary context that has given rise to a cinema on the  
margins of the popular, which we can provisionally call the Fringe.  
Emerging from the periphery of the Film industry, the Fringe is  
struggling against prevailing forms to create a new cinematic  
language. These films speak in a global language to evoke a crumbling  
urban world which appears unfamiliar in relation to the melodramatic  
form commonly associated with India's popular cinema. Influenced by  
Hollywood, European, and Asian cinema, the Fringe circulates like a  
virus alongside the delirium of globalisation today. In a context  
where "Bollywood" has emerged as a chapter in Indian diplomacy and  
advertisement for India's global rise, the new urban fringe suggests a  
very different world.

Two City Forms: Axionometric Vision and Linear Perspective

In order to conceptualize two very different strategies for urban  
change, art history offers us two perspectives (that of axonometric  
vision and that of linear perspective) that give us better insight in  
how cities, especially in its European and in its East-Asian  
appearance, are subjected to processes of Change. Connected to the  
Deleuzian concepts of the fold/ the unfold and of the this  
presentation intends to show in what way our two main concepts allow  
us to rethink concepts like public space, the street, the facade and  
several other ideas important for architectural theory.

Workforms + Playforms

Modern Urban Planning deals with issues of Working, Living and Leisure  
through ideas of ideal standards and equitable provisions. These then  
get manifested into regulations, neatly drawn out urban plans and  
rules for their enforcement. These ways of planning have been dominant  
in Indian contexts as well. However contemporary Indian urbanism has  
shown that it spurs multiple patterns of everyday life, of inhabiting  
urban space, that somehow do not fit in the neatly parcelled plans.  
Work, living and leisure manifest themselves in multiple ways,  
occupying unique spaces in the city. This paper will discuss two  
studio projects conducted at the Kamla Raheja Institute for  
Architecture in Mumbai titled: Workforms and Playforms that build on  
this understanding. The paper would not only discuss the various,  
often bizarre, patterns through which work, living and leisure are  
acted out by various constituents in the city; but also the  
difficulties in mapping them through conventional methods. The paper  
will further discuss innovative methods that were explored in the  
studio to map these conditions and possibilities that design  
interventions provide in these fragile situations.

Indian & Chinese Occupancy Urbanism: Disrupting the Nation State &  
appropriating High Modernism

Indian and Chinese cities show significant urbanisms to lie beyond the  
ambit of the nation state to disrupt and appropriate policy frames to  
be 'globally competitive'. We look at Bombay, Bangalore, as well as  
'Small commodity' centers like Yiwu in China's Wenzhou districts.  
Essential to this politics is local authority's embedding in popular  
society via land -- reconstituted into complex tenure forms to defy  
centralized planning. Such embeddings spur an everyday politics where  
real estate surpluses fuel an economy of 'suitcase entrepreneurs'.  
These economic networks shape a vibrant globalization 'from below'.  
Not surprisingly, these developments are un-palatable to international  
investors: High powered NYC lawyers cry foul over 'legal  
protectionism' around unplanned land development in Guangzhou's  
cities; Procter and Gamble hired academics portray Yiwu to the US  
Senate, as centers of: 'piracy, counterfeit culture, and even possible  
terrorist funding'. These urbanisms also disrupt Mike Davis's  
narrative of future cities as violent slum-scapes, rife with social  
and political disintegration. Instead a more useful conceptual frame  
comes from legal pluralism derived 'porous legalities', notions of  
'subaltern cosmopolitanism', and a consideration of the Everyday  
State' that returns us to Polyani's economy embedded into society.

People's Activities in an Urban Village in Guangzhou: Beyond Informality

One prominent feature of China's current urban landscape is the  
prevalence of 'villages-in-the-city', or simply abbreviated as 'urban  
villages' (in Chinese, it is called Chengzhongcun). Chengzhongcun is  
the outcome of urban encroachment on rural villages, sometimes former  
production brigades and clan villages, both inside, and on the fringe  
of, the city. Nowadays, tens of thousands of migrant workers relocate,  
mostly temporarily, from the countryside to these urban villages to  
sell their labour power in the city, while some indigenous villagers  
might have already relocated themselves to newly built apartments  
elsewhere. Concomitantly, a kind of new urban community starts to form  
in the city. There, people live a way of life different from the  
urban, which is now very much commodified, albeit still under  
étatisation one way or other. The way of life found in Chenzhoncun is  
usually characterised as self-help or informal by the literature, in  
that their non-state behaviour of, on the part of indigenous  
villagers, renting land for real estate development and building extra  
floor space on the top of their own houses for renting-out purposes,  
and, on the part of migrant workers, entering into residential  
contract with owner-occupiers, opening new petit-bourgeois, small  
labour-intensive businesses of offering catering, personal services,  
and transport and errand services to service the community. This paper  
challenges the self-help or informal concept and, instead, argues to  
understand their new way of life as a kind of innovative techniques to  
survive in the context of widespread hegemonic and sub-hegemonic  
construction. This argument is illustrated with a case study of Shipai  
Village in the city of Guangzhou.


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