Urban ARC 2021 | Urban Imaginaries
IIHS Annual Research Conference | 14 – 16 January 2021
Urban ARC 2021 | Urban Imaginaries
IIHS Annual Research Conference | 14 – 16 January 2021
The fifth edition of Urban ARC, the Annual Research Conference of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, will be conducted between the 14 – 16 January 2021. The theme for this edition is ‘Urban Imaginaries: Past, Present and Future’.
The idea of imaginaries holds a pivotal place in inquiry. Central to the very nature of knowledge production is the imagination of a better world. This central imperative has led to innovative work across disciplines, sectors and scales, pushing the boundaries of our understanding of, and engagements with, the ‘urban’. The idea(s) of urban imaginaries have been manifested in multiple ways and forms – from utopian visions of the Garden City and the City Beautiful movement to the dystopic fictional urban futures of science fiction. They have been invoked as propellers of economic growth (Anand et al., 2014; Glaeser, 2011; Sankhe et al., 2010), as the locus of both environmental destruction and of sustainable futures (Revi and Rosenzweig, 2013; Revi, 2012; Stone Jr., 2012), as sites of opportunity and hope and as places with deep inequality and strife. The role of urban imaginations has been critical to how our cities have taken shape, both past and present – the vision of an Indian city “ unfettered by tradition” (Kalia, 2006: 134) was fundamental to how new capital cities were planned in post-independence India. The fascination, rooted in older histories, with imaging new urban futures and planning new, greenfield settlements is one that endures in contemporary policy as well – mega-infrastructure projects in Asia and Africa use new urban settlements as nodes around which economic development is being driven (Ballard et al., 2017; Watson, 2015; Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, 2007).
While they are linkages to past, present and futures, urban imaginaries are also products of particular moments, contexts and socio-cultural zeitgeists. They hold the collective aspirations for the future as well as the remnants of past aspirations. Cities also bring together a vast range of spatial practices from architecture and planning, employment and labour, to economic growth and environmental sustainability, politics and culture (Huyssen, 2008). Understanding imaginaries, and their deployment in research is then “critical to develop sustainable practices and environments for our collective tomorrow” (Dunn, 2018: 375).
This is particularly critical in the context of a rapidly urbanising Global South. In ‘New Urban Worlds’, Simone and Pieterse (2018) write that the city is continually something to be remade according to new models, new possibilities of generating value, spectacular visions of the built environment but also constantly draw on everyday lived experiences, histories and encounters, remaining powerful objects of imagination, sociality and governance (ibid). They call for a new way of imagining cities, especially those in the South, using new ways of understanding and studying them.
The notion of studying urban futures, then, is as much a methodological challenge as it is a conceptual one. Increasingly, there have been calls for a ‘new urban science’ bringing together not only academics from a range of disciplines, but also practitioners, emphasising that a transdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach is essential to the future of our cities (Acuto et al., 2018; McPhearson et al., 2016). Methodologically, there is also a movement towards increasingly sophisticated predictive modelling approaches that draw on big data as well as a simultaneous call to look at the everyday lived experiences within urban settlements to produce visions of what urban futures can look like (Keith et al., 2020; Simone and Pieterse, 2018).
Research has in some senses grappled with the ways we imagine the space of inquiry itself – the city, and the multiple threads of inquiry that are woven into the cityscape. The idea of urban imaginaries is also interpreted and used in different ways – through the lenses of media and cyberspace, through social movements around land rights and housing, and local embeddedness and global economic networks (Huyssen, 2008). They invoke the idea of utopian visions enshrined in the earliest urban plans (Brenner and Keil, 2006; Lin and Mele, 2005) to more contemporary urban fantasies played out especially in the cities of the global South (Watson, 2015; Watson, 2014; Bunnell and Das, 2010). These imaginaries offer opportunities to interact with other cultures and diasporas, often mediated through cinema, media, and the Internet but also through migration, and movement of labour, travel and tourism. They also find a place in the idea of the spectacle whether in the form of the erstwhile World Fairs, or the more contemporary cultural events like the Olympics that constantly reshape and reimagine our urban spaces (Huyssen, 2008), or indeed through spectacular architecture (King, 2004).
As Lidner and Meissner (2019) suggest, urban imaginaries play an important role in the city space. They “meaningfully interlink the different structures and signs, minds and bodies, facts and subjectivities, actualities and virtualities, economies and ecologies of urban social space” (Meissner and Lindner, 2018: 6). It is in the intersections of these, and multiple other dualities, that the space of the innovative research around the Urban emerges. Urban Imaginaries can help in reconfiguring the socio-spatial politics of cities, intervening in the interconnected fields of urban class politics, gender politics, geopolitics, and eco-politics (ibid).
The contemporary moment in the light of COVID-19 has also thrown up a range of questions regarding the future of cities, the imaginations of what urban areas could and should look like, how they can be made more resilient while continuing to support vibrant spaces for sustainable development. The pandemic has presented challenges to governments, both local and national and highlighted and amplified inequalities in access to health care, social protection services, housing and employment, among others. We recognize that the implications of COVID-19 are not limited to public health, but rather apply to complex inter-connected urban systems. Indeed, research on this needs to speak to questions of inequality, unemployment, social protection, access to services, and engage with questions of not just development, but development embedded with economic, social and environmental justice — questions that are now more relevant than ever.
Debates have also centred around decongestion and reducing density, on the role of digital technology, on the future of work, and on how architecture and design can evolve to envision the ‘new normal’. This has also thrown up questions around reimagining the nature of urban research itself, and the kinds of methodological innovations that may now be needed. For example, Bhan, Caldiera, Gillespie and Simone (2020), call for a re-examination of the ‘monumental’ as a way of thinking about and responding to the pandemic, as doing so tends to obfuscate the everyday ordinary responses to extraordinary times. Instead, they offer the idea of the ‘collective life’ as an analytical category that allows for a reading that looks beyond “…formal actors and institutions, legible landscapes, neatly tabulated data, and linear economic rationalities” (para 13). The current crisis calls for such reimaginations, and keeping this in mind, Urban ARC 2021 will be organising a special track focusing on post-COVID urban futures.
[If your submission speaks directly to this track, please indicate so at the appropriate space in the online application form.]
Dunn (2018) suggests that the role of imagination is fundamental to processes of conceptualisation, envisioning and performing urban futures. Further, “the importance of such creativity extends in other ways to their questioning of reality, reshaping our spatial conceptions or providing expressions of alternatives” (pg. 375). It is in keeping with this centrality of imaginations in both the lived experiences of cities and its peoples, as well as in the research that seeks to understand, define and predict its futures, that Urban ARC 2021 invites papers and panels engaged with relevant questions of the Urban. We encourage submissions from a wide range of disciplinary spaces, and situated in theoretical, methodological or practice-based approaches to the urban. We aim to provide a critical and fruitful space for engagement across themes (ecology, equality etc.), sectors (land, housing, transport, sanitation, ICT etc.), methodologies (textual analysis, engagement with data, in-depth qualitative work etc.) and disciplines (economics, history, technology, politics, media, anthropology, cultural studies, among others) in order to enable an understanding, and harness the potential, of Urban Imaginaries.
Urban ARC 2021 will be held virtually on the Zoom Webinar platform. Sessions will also be live-streamed to the IIHS Facebook and YouTube Channels. Please check the schedule for information on panels, speakers and registration links. For queries write to us at email@example.com
Dates and Procedures:
|30 November 2020||Deadline for Submitting Abstracts|
|Early December||Announcement of Selected Papers|
|5 January 2021||Submission of Completed Papers|
|14 – 16 January 2021||Urban ARC 2021|
Please note that abstracts have to be submitted with the following guidelines:
Abstracts not in the prescribed format will not be considered for inclusion in the conference proceeding.
Urban ARC 2021 will be held virtually on the Zoom Webinar platform. Sessions will also be live-streamed to the IIHS Facebook and YouTube Channels. Please check the schedule for information on panels, speakers and registration links.
All copyright for original work will lie with the author. IIHS will use material only with prior permission.
About the Indian Institute for Human Settlements:
The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) is a national education institution committed to the equitable, sustainable and efficient transformation of Indian settlements. More details about IIHS, its research, practice, and work can be found at iihs.co.in.
Acuto, M., Parnell, S. & Seto, K. C. 2018. Building a global urban science. Nature Sustainability, 1 (1) (2)
Anand, S., Koduganti, J. & Revi, A., 2014, Cities as Engines of Inclusive Development, Bangalore, India, IIHS, and the Rockefeller Foundation, IIHS,
Ballard, R., Dittgen, R., Harrison, P. & Todes, A. 2017. Megaprojects and urban visions: Johannesburg’s Corridors of Freedom and Modderfontein. Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa, 95 (1) (111-139)
Bhan, G., Caldeira, T., Gillespie, K., & Simone, A. M. (2020, August 3). The Pandemic, Southern Urbanisms
and Collective Life. Society & Space. https://www.societyandspace.org/articles/the-pandemic-southern-urbanisms-and-collective-life
Brenner, N. & Keil, R. (eds.) 2006. The Global Cities Reader, New York: Routledge.
Bunnell, T. & Das, D. 2010. Urban pulse—a geography of serial seduction: urban policy transfer from Kuala Lumpur to Hyderabad. Urban Geography, 31 (3) (277-284)
Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, 2007. Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor: Concept Paper. Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Government of India, Delhi, India
Dunn, N. S. 2018. Urban imaginaries and the palimpsest of the future.
Glaeser, E. L. 2011. Triumph of the City.
Huyssen, A. 2008. Other cities, other worlds: urban imaginaries in a globalizing age, Duke University Press.
Kalia, R. 2006. Modernism, modernization and post‐colonial India: a reflective essay. Planning Perspectives, 21 (2) (133-156) Routledge
Keith, M., O’Clery, N., Parnell, S. & Revi, A. 2020. The future of the future city? The new urban sciences and a PEAK Urban interdisciplinary disposition. Cities, 105 (102820)
King, A. D. 2004. Spaces of global cultures : architecture, urbanism, identity, London ; New York, Routledge.
Lin, J. & Mele, C. (eds.) 2005. The Urban Sociology Reader, London, New York, Delhi: Routledge.
McPhearson, T., Parnell, S., Simon, D., Gaffney, O., Elmqvist, T., Bai, X., Roberts, D. & Revi, A. 2016. Scientists must have a say in the future of cities. Nature, 538 (7624) (165-166)
Meissner, M. & Lindner, C. 2018. Introduction: Urban imaginaries in theory and practice. The Routledge Companion to Urban Imaginaries, (1-22)
Revi, A. 2012. Climate change risk: an adaptation and mitigation agenda for Indian cities. Adapting Cities to Climate Change: Understanding and addressing the development challenges. Routledge.
Revi, A. & Rosenzweig, C. 2013. The Urban Opportunity: Enabling Transformative and Sustainable Development.
Sankhe, S., Vittal, I., Dobbs, R., Mohan, A., Gulati, A., Ablett, J., Gupta, S., Kim, A., Paul, S., Sanghvi, A. & Sethy, G., 2010, India’s urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth, McKinsey Global Institute,
Simone, A. & Pieterse, E. 2018. New urban worlds: Inhabiting dissonant times, John Wiley & Sons.
Stone Jr., B. 2012. The City and the Coming Climate: Climate Change in the Places We Live, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press.
Watson, V. 2014. African urban fantasies: dreams or nightmares? Environment and Urbanization, 26 (1) (215-231)
Watson, V. 2015. The allure of ‘smart city’rhetoric India and Africa. Dialogues in Human Geography, 5 (1) (36-39)
Urban ARC 2021 will be held from 14 – 16 January 2021 via the Zoom Webinar platform. Sessions will also be live-streamed to the IIHS Facebook. Register to join the conversations on Zoom.
|14 January 2021|
|9:00am – 10:00am||Opening Plenary by Aromar Revi, Director, IIHS |
|10:30am – 12:10pm||Narratives on the Urban Environment|
Chair: Krishnachandran Balakrishnan
|The Ecological Imagination of Emerging Cities in the 21st Century|
(Ernesto Valero Thomas, Independent Scholar)
|Contested Imaginations and Negotiating-with the City-scape: A case study of Bovines in Delhi|
(Shruti Ragavan, National Institute of Advanced Studies; The University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology)
|Reimagining Peripheral Geographies: A Dual Lens Approach to Examine Peri-Urban Dynamics in India|
(Lakshmi Priya Rajendran, Anglia Ruskin University; Christopher Maidment, Reading University; Arindam Biswas, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee; Sheeba Chander, Hindustan Institute of Science and Technology; Sudhan Srinivas, Hindustan Institute of Science and Technology; Maria Rinya Roy, Hindustan Institute of Science and Technology; Koushikaa Shree, Hindustan Institute of Science and Technology)
|‘Ghats’ and Everyday Hydrosocial Relations: Production of Urban Spaces along Kolkata’s Riverfront|
(Raina Ghosh, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
|Of Environment and Environmental Practices in New Town, West Bengal|
(Debarun Sarkar, University of Mumbai)
|12:40pm – 2:00pm||The Work that ‘Urban Observatories’ do: Institutionalizing Urban Imagination between Trust, Advocacy and Expertise|
Discussant: Susan Parnell, University of Bristol, PEAK Urban GCRF program
Discussant: Alexandre Apsan Frediani, International Institute for Environment and Development, KNOW GCRF program
|Anchor Report: Urban Observatories: A Comparative Review|
(Michele Acuto and Ariana Dickey, University of Melbourne; Carla Washbourne, University College London)
|Case Study: The Experience of the Beirut Urban Lab|
(Mona Fawaz, Beirut Urban Lab)
|Case Study: The Experience of the Bangalore Urban Observatory|
(Shriya Anand, Indian Institute for Human Settlements)
|2:30pm – 3:50pm||Navigating the City: Urban Mobilities|
Chair: Pooja Rao
|Urban Imaginaries: Fisherwomen in the Past, Present and Future of Mumbai: An Exploratory Research on the Use of Public Transport by Fisherwomen in Mumbai|
(Kshiti Shobha Vikas, St Xavier’s College (Autonomous) Mumbai)
|Algorithmic Mobilities: The Uber View of Calcutta|
(Neha Gupta, National Institute of Technology, Silchar)
|Transport Disadvantage: Understanding Ageing and Mobility in Bengaluru|
(Prajwal Nagesh, Utrecht University; Ajay Bailey, Utrecht University; Sobin George, Institute for Social and Economic Change; Lekha Subaiya, Institute for Social and Economic Change; Dick Ettema, Utrecht University)
|‘Free’ at what Cost? Free-bus-rides-for-women Scheme in Delhi|
(Saakshi Joshi, Manipal Academy of Higher Education; Anindita Datta, University of Delhi; Ajay Bailey, Utrecht University; Leena Sushant, Nirmala Singh and Jyoti Rawat, Breakthrough Trust)
|4:20pm – 6:20pm||Constructing the City|
Chair: Sudeshna Mitra
|Construction of Mumbai’s Land Market: Fictional Imagination and the Search for Commodified Land|
(Anitra Baliga, London School of Economics and Political Science)
|Bhadraloks and their ‘Others’: Locating Real Estate Development and Image of the City in North Kolkata|
(Riona Basu, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
|Covid-19 in Peripheral Cape Town: Infrastructural Experiences and Re-imaginations|
(Suraya Scheba, University of Cape Town; Andreas Scheba, Human Sciences Research Council & University of the Free State)
|The Persistence of Peenya: Examining Industrial Space in ‘Global’ Bangalore|
(Aman Banerji, Cornell University)
|Women in Smart Cities: Imagined or Imaginary?|
(Uttara Purandare, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay – Monash Research Academy)
|Data in the Developing City|
(Khaliq Parkar, CESSMA, University of Paris)
|15 January 2021|
|9:30am – 11:30am||Communities and Urban Spaces|
Chair: Divya Ravindranath
|Infrastructure of Romance: Pre-marital Relationship in Urban Spaces in Contemporary India|
(Sristi Mondal, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi)
|Re-Imagining Urban Spaces and Reconfiguring Human Ecology Street-Based Sex Workers as Urban Pseudo-Invisibles in Bangalore City|
(Anant Kamath, National Institute of Advanced Studies; Neethi P, Indian Institute for Human Settlements)
|‘The Second Sex’ and Recreational Culture: A Socio-spatial Urbanscape to Re-define the Urban Peripheries, Case of Kolkata|
(Ankita Karmakar and Arunima Saha, School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi)
|I (Don’t) Walk a Lonely Road: A Study of Women Seeking Leisure in a Public Park|
(Mallika Gupta, CEPT University)
|Fantasy visions, Informal Urbanization and Local conflict: Contradictions of Smart City imaginaries in India|
(Debadutta Parida, University of Alberta)
|Urban Property in Kolkata: Narratives of Everyday Experiences and Imaginaries|
(Sreya Sen, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
|1:00pm – 2:20pm||Transversals: Materiality and Method for the Southern Urban Question|
Chair: Gautam Bhan
(University of California, Berkeley)
(University of the Western Cape, South Africa)
(Indian Institute for Human Settlements)
(University of Sheffield, UK)
|2:50pm – 4:10pm||Growing Cities: Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture in the Global South Through a Lens of Sustainability and Wellbeing|
Chair: Nitya Rao, University of East Anglia
Discussants: Chandni Singh and Prathigna Poonacha, Indian Institute for Human Settlements
|Cities’ Food Synergies: Case of Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture Production and Supply Between Morogoro and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania|
(Betty Mntambo, Open University of Tanzania; Swai Ombeni, Ardhi University, Tanzania)
|Contextualising Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture in the Wake of Climate Change: The Case of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania|
(Aldo Lupala, Ardhi University, Tanzania)
|Understanding the Impacts of Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture on Human Wellbeing and Urban Sustainability: Case of Bangalore and Pune|
(Chandni Singh, Indian Institute for Human Settlements; Sheetal Patil, Azim Premji University; Prathigna Poonacha, Indian Institute for Human Settlements; Parama Roy, Indian Institute of Technology Madras; Teja Malladi, Indian Institute for Human Settlements; Ashwin Mahalingam, Indian Institute of Technology Madras; Maitreyi Koduganti, Indian Institute for Human Settlements; Swarnika Sharma, Indian Institute for Human Settlements)
|Urban Against Urbanisation: Farming in Delhi and its Significance as a Systemic Alternative|
(Nishant, Radheshyam Mangolpuri and Rajendra Ravi, People’s Resource Centre, Delhi)
|4:40pm – 6:20pm||Media Imaginaries|
Chair: Vikas John
|Speculating the City: The Urban Imaginaries of Contemporary Indian Science Fiction|
(Annika Taneja, Independent Researcher)
|Infrastructural Imaginaries and Urban Futures: Cell Antenna Radiation Controversies in Indian Cities|
(Rahul Mukherjee, University of Pennsylvania)
|Urban Imaginaries, Home and (Un/be) longing in the Jesus Trilogy of J.M. Coetzee|
(Debasish Mishra, National Institute of Science Education and Research, HBNI, Bhubaneswar)
|Space Making by Women in the Neoliberal City: The Cinema of Alankrita Shrivastava|
(Isha Tyagi, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai)
|Provoked to Perpetuate: Planning Visualizations as a Question of Spatio-Visual Injustice, Case of Cairo|
(Mennatullah Hendawy, TU Berlin and Orient Institute Beirut)
|16 January 2021|
|9:30am – 11:10am||Fair Work: Employment in the City|
Chair: Neethi P
|Beyond Security: An Urban Policy for Migrant Workers|
(Divya Varma, Maansi Parpiani and Kavya Bharadkar, Aajeevika Bureau- Centre for Migration and Labour Solutions)
|Role of Land Rights in Improving the Quality of Life in the Slums of Delhi|
(Anil Kumar Roy and Pragya Sharma, CEPT University)
|Morphology of Narasimharajapura post COVID-19: People, Perceptions, Spatial Manifestations and Representations|
(Priyadarshini Mohanty, Sona Alex and Vaseem Anjum Sheriff , BMS College of Architecture)
|All is not well on the Yamuna Front: Skills and Livelihood Aspirations of Yamuna Pushta’s Working Homeless Men|
(Ashwin Parulkar, Centre for Policy Research; Anhad Imaan, Aajeevika Bureau- Centre for Migration and Labour Solutions)
|Synergizing Shared Spaces in a Divided City: Case of Shillong, India|
(Jagriti Jhunjhunwala, School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal)
|11:40am – 1:20pm||Re-imagining Urban Services|
Chair: Amir Bazaz
|Domestic Water Supply Scenario of Small Indian City: Reforms, Service delivery and Futuristic solution|
(Harshita Mishra, Independent Architect and Environmental Planner)
|Politics of Hygiene : Through Infrastructure Disconnected from Governance|
(Ganga Dileep C, Meenakshi M, Sanjana Jismon and Rohit Bagai, Recyclebin Studio )
|What Affects Urban Households’ Energy Consumption Patterns? Technological Innovation and Behavioural Interventions|
(Chandra Sekhar Bahinipati, Rahul A. Sirohi and Sagarika S. Rao, Indian Institute of Technology, Tirupati)
|Urban Water Management: Reviewing the Changing Paradigms|
(Siddh Doshi and Rutool Sharma, CEPT University)
|Ownership Status and Housing Quality in Urban India|
(Kiran Limaye, VikasAvnesh Foundation; Shreya Biswas, BITS Pilani, Hyderabad)
|2:00pm – 3:20pm||Planning and Urban Imaginations|
Chair: Namrata Kapoor
|Role of Urban Green Spaces in Health and Well-being in Jaipur: Implications for Urban Planning|
(Anil Kumar Roy and Kristi Verma, CEPT University)
|The Spatial Distribution of Public and Common Mobility Resources in Mexico Valley Metropolitan Zone|
(David López García, The New School)
|Ecological Perspectives in Spatial Planning: Critical Review of Master Plans for Delhi|
(Gargi Mishra and Rutul Joshi, CEPT University)
|Missing in Action: In Search of an Integrated and Pragmatic Planning Information Framework in India|
(Amish Sarpotdar, University of Manchester)
|3:50pm – 5:30pm||Perceptions of Difference: Identities in the City|
Chair: Aditi Surie
|The Geography of Love: “Indigenous Urbanity” and the Practice of Lesbianism in Medieval Lucknow|
(Puja Basu, Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata)
|Between Heterotopia and Utopia: Indian Queer Urbanism in the Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories|
(Swati Palanivelu Vijaya, Ohio State University)
|A Muslim Feminist City: From Girls at Dhabas to Shaheen Bagh|
(Tara Atluri, University of Toronto)
|Dalit Settlements during Early-Twentieth Century Delhi: Pandemic and its Variegated Impact|
(Jatin, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
|Fractured Geographies, Cornered Communities: Shaping and Reshaping the Urban|
(Anshu Saluja, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
|6:30pm – 8:00pm||Looking Forward: The Agenda for a New Urban Science|
Chair and discussant: Aromar Revi
(Professor at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), University of Oxford)
(Clinical Associate Professor, School of Sustainability, College of Global Futures, Arizona State University)
(Professor of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago)
(Co-Chair, Working Group II, IPCC)
This year, Urban ARC will be hosted virtually, via Zoom. The sessions will also be live-streamed on IIHS’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.
Please note, prior registration is required to attend each session. You can register for individual sessions by clicking on the session title, which will redirect you to the Zoom registration page. Once registered, you will receive the Zoom link for the session, and a confirmation email.
The question & answer (Q&A) feature on Zoom webinar allows attendees to ask questions during the webinar, and for the panelists, co-hosts, and host to answer their questions. Please note, attendees will be in listen-only mode and can type in their questions using the Q&A feature.