Urban ARC 2022 | Beyond Binaries

IIHS Annual Research Conference  | 13 – 15 January 2022

The sixth edition of Urban ARC, the Annual Research Conference of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), will be conducted virtually from 13 to 15 January 2022. The theme for this edition is ‘Beyond Binaries: Towards new conceptual frameworks in the Urban’.


In her article, ‘Global and World Cities: A view from off the Map’, published in 2002, Jennifer Robinson argued that urban studies as a field was divided between urban theory and the western or “global” cities on one side, and the development studies and the “third world cities” on the other. Such a categorisation held cities around the world to western global city standards, which Robinson argued, did not capture the vagaries of contemporary urbanization (Robinson, 2002). Two decades later, however, Robinson’s compelling critique still holds true, particularly in the context of an increasingly globalised present and future. Cities across the globe differ in their experience and negotiations with emergent urban phenomena. Understanding and studying these phenomena thus requires thinking beyond existing binaries.


Conceptualized within the theme of the conference are three important, intersecting ideas. The first is the idea of binaries and other kinds of categorisation which inform various traditions of knowledge production, in multiple ways. The centrality of dialogue from opposing positions, and the emergence of novel positions in its wake has been the key in the creation and development of knowledge over time. This edition of Urban ARC pivots off of this centrality.


The second is the ways in which binary positions have evolved in various traditions of knowledge production, allowing them to go beyond these initial positions. This transition has not been consistent in depth, scope or velocity across disciplines and knowledge traditions. This has ranged from using binaries differently to address important issues, the use of multivalent systems of definition and organisation, to challenging the use of categorisation itself. It is in this context that we conceptualize the beyond as a post-duality space that can be celebrated for the multiplicities it holds.


The third conceptual idea is the Urban, imagined as a space in which the tension between binaries and the beyond play out. The Urban, while being notionally organised around cartographic boundaries, goes beyond them to include a complex system of ideas, systems, processes, practices, lived experiences and emergent policies that can be understood only through a range of innovative theoretical and methodological approaches. Urban ARC 2022 provides the space for conversations along these vectors.


Binaries have been used repeatedly to classify and categorise phenomena to better facilitate our understanding of people and things (Cloke & Johnston, 2005). Although binaries engage with the idea of opposites, they are also closely connected; one cannot exist without the other: e.g. there may be no rural without an urban; no formal without an understanding of the informal. Between binaries, lies space for continued negotiation. These negotiations based on emerging realities, new ways of thinking and being have often transcended binary thinking, paving way for a continuum of possibilities that emerge around the evident tensions between two opposites.


This conference aims to build on and continue ongoing conversations around the question of categories like binaries that has been an important part of post-colonial discourse in fields such as feminism, philosophy, and environmental sciences, among others (Walker, 2001; Culler, 2001; Whatmore, 2017; Kayumova et al, 2019). The re-examining of these binaries and inherent tensions has led to the emergence of new categories that are evident in several ways and forms, from daily lived experiences to analytical tools – from the politics of the right and left, the economics of formal and informal, to the spatiality of rural and urban.


The notion of moving beyond binaries manifests in several ways; in our conceptual, methodological and analytical interpretation of things. The dismantling of binaries has been critical in the context of an increasingly globalised, interconnected and urban world that is constantly pushing, debating and re-examining existing boundaries. Researchers, especially those located in the global South have consistently called for and worked towards rethinking what these categories mean, primarily because of the diverse experiences of rapid globalisation and urbanisation across cities (Shatkin, 2007; Robinson, 2011). In the last few decades, conceptual debates around the global North and South (Schindler 2017; Watson 2009; Parnell 2012) have increasingly focussed on the need for a “southern urban theory”, to conceptualise the heterogeneity and experiences of the cities in the global South that cannot be confined to the north/south binaries.


Debates have ranged from theorising the urban, to thinking of ways to engage with emerging urban phenomena, that are new, disparate and cannot be distinctly categorised. Studying these complex urban systems requires moving beyond traditional disciplinary silos and instead, adopting an interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approach. An immediate example of this has been the COVID-19 pandemic that has amplified existing socio-economic inequalities and questioned the type of interventions required to understand the urban in the context of a “new normal”. In an attempt to conceptualise these urban futures, a more recent move has been towards a ‘new urban science’ that emphasises interdisciplinary research and practice in addressing challenges of the 21st century city (Keith et al., 2020). Methodologically as well, there has been a shift towards the use of big data and modelling approaches to study these futures (ibid.), as well as a collective conceptual attempt towards blurring the categories of policy, research, practice and academia to address the challenges of urbanisation.


At a global as well as the local scale, the increasing role of digital technologies has resulted in a significant shift within the imagined categories of certain sectors and disciplines. While the field of technology is rooted in structure and form, the application and adaptation of these has paved the way for opportunities and possibilities that offer new conceptual frameworks of examining the impacts and implications of these changes (Davies, A.R et al, 2017; Surie, 2021). For example, with respect to labour markets, the move towards digital and platform economy has re-defined the future of work, blurring the boundaries of formal and informal labour. More recently, in the context of COVID-19, digital technology has made it possible for a certain section of the society to effectively work, learn and communicate online. Similarly, new and digital media has been crucial in changing the discourse around media, arts, literature and cinema studies to reflect the change in media consumption patterns as well as the changing mediascapes.


The idea of moving beyond categories also extends to our understanding of social realities and by extension, our self. Questions of  gender, caste, class, ethnicity, religion, language have and still continue to hold a pivotal place in defining one’s identity. These questions are interconnected, deeply rooted in systemic complexities, and cannot be dealt with in isolation. Recent debates around these themes have contested existing categories, particularly with regard to navigating identities of caste and gender.


While they tend to be limiting in nature, categories are also essential. They have played a fundamental role in structuring, organising and making sense of data, spatial mapping, delineating administrative boundaries, among others. Defining jurisdictions of city-like units (Brenner, 2014) using terms such as peri-urban, municipality, municipal corporation, metropolitan region etc, “reflect the changing boundaries, morphologies and scales of human settlement patterns” (Brenner 2014, p 15), and are critical to the process of governance. It also has particular implications for access to relief care, welfare and social protection schemes and programmes.


Binaries, and categories more broadly hold multiple possibilities of negotiation; breaking away, re-imagining, re-conceptualising and realigning. Urban ARC 2022 intends to capture this versatility of binaries; the fluidity, the duality and the several potentialities of conceptualizations that they offer. The conference invites researchers, practitioners and policy makers to engage in dialogues around the theme, ‘beyond binaries’ using diverse modes of engagement- conceptual, methodological, historical, analytical. We encourage submissions across various sectors (e.g. governance, environment and sustainability, infrastructure and services, housing, and social identity, among others), disciplines (e.g. media, social-sciences, behavioural sciences, humanities, architecture, planning) and methods (quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods), using the lens of research, academia, policy and practice.


 Dates and Procedures:

28 November 2021Deadline for submitting extended abstracts
18 December 2021Announcement of selected papers
13-15 January 2022Urban ARC 2022


Submission Guidelines:

Interested applicants should send in an extended abstract of 1,500-2,000 words using the ‘application’ tab on the website. All abstracts will be published as part of the Conference Proceedings.

Please note, abstracts have to be submitted in the format prescribed below. Abstracts not in this format will not be considered for inclusion in the conference proceedings.

  1. Full title and name and institutional affiliation of the author.
  2. Complete end-text and in-text referencing in APA format.



The conference will be conducted virtually via the Zoom Webinar platform. For queries regarding the conference, write to us at research@iihs.ac.in


Brenner, N. (2014). Implosions/explosions. Berlin: Jovis.

Cloke, P., & Johnston, R. (2005). Deconstructing human geography’s binaries. Spaces of geographical thought: Deconstructing human geography’s binaries, 1-20

Culler, J. (2001). Deconstruction: Cultural Concerns.

Davies, A. R., Donald, B., Gray, M., & Knox-Hayes, J. (2017). Sharing economies: moving beyond binaries in a digital age. Cambridge journal of regions, economy and society, 10(2), 209-230.

Kayumova, S., McGuire, C. J., & Cardello, S. (2019). From empowerment to response-ability: rethinking socio-spatial, environmental justice, and nature-culture binaries in the context of STEM education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 14(1), 205-229.

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)

Robbins, S. P. (2015). From the editor—The red pill or the blue pill? Transcending binary thinking

Robinson, J. (2002) Global and World Cities: A View from off the Map. IJURR, 26(3):531–554.

Robinson, J. (2011). Cities in a world of cities: The comparative gesture. International journal of urban and regional research, 35(1), 1-23.

Shatkin, G. (2007). Global cities of the South: Emerging perspectives on growth and inequality. Cities24(1), 1-15

Schindler, S. (2017). Towards a paradigm of Southern urbanism. City21(1), 47-64.

Surie, A. (2021). Coalitions of Socio-Technical Infrastructure: Platforms as Essential Services. Communication, Culture and Critique, 14(3), 539-544.

Walker, R. (2001). Becoming the third wave. Identity politics in the women’s movement, 3(13), 78-80.

Whatmore, S. (2017). Hybrid geographies: rethinking the ‘human’ in human geography. In Environment (pp. 411-428). Routledge.

All sessions are at Indian Standard Time (IST)

Thursday, 13 January, 2022
9:00 am – 9:30 amOpening remarks by Aromar Revi, Director, IIHS
9:30 am – 10:00 amBreak
10:00 am – 11:30 amPanel 1: Urban ecologies: Cities, ecosystems, and ‘nature’
Chair: Jagdish Krishnaswamy
Abohar ‘in-between’ ecology and infrastructures
Apoorva Sharma and Shilpa Dahake, Abohar Urban Studio
Resisting fixity and control: Ganga Diaras of Patna
Archana Singh, People’s Resource Centre, Delhi
Negotiating Aarey: Knowledge production in urban ecology
Vaishnavi Patil, Community Design Agency, Mumbai
Persistent conservation behaviour in affluent households: Use of a theoretically-grounded intervention
Vivek, Independent Researcher; Deepak Malghan and Kanchan Mukherjee, Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru
Visualising the urban: Seeing water pipes in Darjeeling and Kalimpong
Rinan Shah, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment; Manipal Academy of Higher Education and Anisa Bhutia, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
11:30 am – 12:00 pmBreak
12:00 pm – 1:30 pmPanel 2: ‘Home as a Place of Work’: Ways of moving beyond the binary
Chair: Shalini Sinha
‘Home as a Place of Work’: An overview of the conceptual binary & its Implications
Shalini Sinha, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing & Organizing (WIEGO)
Housing design beyond Home/ Workplace boundaries: Findings from The Workhome Project
Frances Holliss, The Workhome Project, London Metropolitan University
Improving home-based work environments for informal workers: Learnings from the interventions of Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT)
Bijal Brahmbhatt, Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT)
Mapping home-based work in Delhi: Insights for city planning
Malavika Narayan, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing & Organizing (WIEGO)
1:30 pm – 2:30 pmBreak
2:30 pm – 4:00 pmPanel 3: Feeding the city: Agriculture in the urban
Chair: Chandni Singh
The monsoon above and below ground: Towards an architecture of suspension
Harshavardhan Bhat, University of Westminster and Anthony Powis, Central Saint Martins – University of the Arts, London
What will it take to recognise agriculture in city?: Some insights from Delhi and the challenges
Aakiz Farooq and Nishant, People’s Resource Centre, Delhi
Quantifying the long term environmental impacts of UPA
Ashwin Mahalingam, U. Srilok Sagar, Yatharth Singh, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and Teja Malladi, Indian Institute for Human Settlements
Agrarianizing the urban. Geographies for negotiating agrarian-urban uncertainty and precarity
Ankita Rathi, Independent Researcher
4:00 pm – 4:30 pmBreak
4:30 pm – 6:00 pmPanel 4: Developing an urban curriculum for the Global South
Adriana Allen, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London
Panel Introduction
Shriya Anand, Indian Institute for Human Settlements
Julia Wesely, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London
Caren Levy, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London
Wilbard Kombe, Ardhi University
Jorge Pena Diaz and Joiselen Cazanave Macías, Urban Research & Action Group, Instituto Superior Politécnico José Antonio Echeverria (CUJAE)
Edgar Pieterse, African Centre for Cities
Darshini Mahadevia, Ahmedabad University
Aromar Revi, Indian Institute for Human Settlements
6:00 pm – 6:30 pmBreak
6:30 pm – 8:00 pmPanel 4: Developing an urban curriculum for the Global South (continued)
Friday, 14 January, 2022
9:30 am – 11:00 amPanel 5: Shifting identities: Locating diversity in the urban
Chair: Gautam Bhan
After land titling: “Useless” property rights and subaltern citizenship in Hyderabad
Indivar Jonnalagadda, University of Pennsylvania
Caste in the urban: Spatiality and identity in peripheral Bangalore
Andrew Desouza and Bagavanidhi M, Independent Researchers
Where are the modern Jajmans? :Politics, caste organization and community mobilization amongst urban, migrant Bhumihars today
Vrishali, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
Residential Segregation and Unequal Access to Local Public Services in India: Evidence from 1.6m Neighborhoods
Anjali Adukia, Sam Asher, Kritarth Jha, Paul Novosad, Brandon Tan, Development Data Lab
Beyond class-based binaries in political mobilisation: A case study of Islamabad, Pakistan
Hafsah Siddiqui, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
Reclaiming public life in Delhi’s urban villages
Sophiya Islam, CEPT University
11:00 am – 11:30 amBreak
11.30 am – 1:00 pmPanel 6: Working the city: Livelihoods, mobility, and space
Chair: Aditi Surie
Travelling in the cosmos: Exploring rurban sensibility amongst the rural cosmopolitans in Hyderabad, India
Tirthankar Chakraborty, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin
Are urban working women in the organized sector under the double burden syndrome?
K. Saradhambika, GITAM School of Humanities
Re-imagining duality of urbanization in new normal: Deepening multidimensional marginality of urban poor in neo-liberal Indian cities
Shadab Anis, National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA)
Beyond internal and international migration: Exploring everyday spatialities of Indian women migrants in Hyderabad, India and Melbourne, Australia
Dr. SriPallavi Nadimpalli, Independent Researcher
Mediating social entrepreneurship for development in South Africa and India: Demonstrating entanglements of neoliberal economic logics and social missions
Vrinda Chopra, University of Cape Town
1:00 pm – 2:30 pmBreak
2:30 pm – 4:00 pmPanel 7: Rethinking spatiality: Moving beyond the urban
Chair: Sudeshna Mitra
Urban life at the extensions: Beyond binaries
AbdouMaliq Simone, The Urban Institute, University of Sheffield
Spatial design practice in a post-post city: a situated southern urbanist inquiry around how
Jhono Bennett, Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London
Extended urbanisation as postcolonial theory: A relational comparative perspective from India and Brazil
Rodrigo Castriota, Beyond Inhabitation Lab, DIST, Polytechnic and University of Turin and Nitin Bathla, Department of Architecture, ETH Zurich
Spaces for citizen-driven innovation? Mapping tensions and potentials within urban makerspaces
Stuti Haldar, Indian Institute for Human Settlements and Gautam Sharma, DST – Centre for Policy Research, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Globalisation and changing spatial imaginaries: Reflections from contemporary Kerala
Mijo Luke, Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram
4:00 pm – 4:30 pmBreak
4:30 pm – 6:00 pmPanel 8: Navigating and practicing planning: Urban practitioners in dialogue
Chair: Geetika Anand
Co-producing knowledge: Methods, moments and experiences from the Main Bhi Dilli Campaign, India
Malavika Narayan, WIEGO; Rashee Mehra and Ruchika Lall, Indian Institute for Human Settlements
Inclusive cities and land rights for urban poor: Reflecting from Jharkhand
Lakhi Das, Activist, Adarsh Seva Sansthan
Learning from disappointments: The innovative expert, the impatient civil society and the persistence of regulatory capture in Mumbai’s development plan 2034
Champaka Rajagopal
Reflections on the legal empowerment of community representatives in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Rosario Fassina, Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ)
Planning and power: Participatory adaptive planning approaches in Kenya
Diana Wachira, Pamoja Trust
6:00 pm – 6:30 pmBreak
6:30 pm – 8:00 pmPanel 9: Research, funding, and partnerships: Collaboration across the North & South
Chair: Neha Sami
Risks and returns from large scale funding for urban research
Michael Keith, Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), University of Oxford; Susan Parnell, University of Bristol
The paradox: Economic growth that endangers the future of research in Colombia.
Juan C. Duque, EAFIT University
Rethinking the research funding process
Neha Sami, Indian Institute for Human Settlements
Why is it more important than ever for urban South scholars to generate global work?: Reflections from the borders of (global) urban and sexualities research
Andrew Tucker, African Centre for Cities
Saturday, 15 January, 2022
11:00 am – 1:00 pmPanel 10: India’s Greenfield Urban Future
Chair: Loraine Kennedy
India’s greenfield urban future: An introduction
Ashima Sood, Anant National University and Loraine Kennedy, National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), Research Director, Centre for South Asian Studies (CEIAS) at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris
Industrial Zone to New Skycity: The (Un) Making of India’s First Aerotropolis
Gopa Samanta, The University of Burdwan
Dholera: The emperor’s new city
Preeti Sampat, Urban Studies Foundation International Fellow, Department of Geography, School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester; School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi
Scaling up, scaling down: State rescaling along the Delhi–Mumbai Industrial Corridor
Neha Sami and Shriya Anand, Indian Institute for Human Settlements
Roads to new urban futures: State strategies of peri-urban Place- Making in India
Sudeshna Mitra, Indian Institute for Human Settlements
1:00 pm – 2:30 pmBreak
2:30 pm – 4:00 pmPanel 11: Producing space: Urban form, planning, and spatialisation
Chair: Prathijna Poonacha Kodira
Between a town with ‘totas’ and the Garden City : An exploration of Bangalore and its gardens in the early twentieth century.
Elza D’Cruz, Manipal Academy of Higher Education; Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design and Technology
Tracing liminal spaces : Understanding the fundamental nature of urban thresholds
Ruju H Joshi, CEPT University
Kaccha-Pakka: An enduring binary: Building taxonomy, spatial production and architectural pedagogy
Parul Kiri Roy, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi
Betwixt and the Bhoot: Urban rehabilitation as antitheticality in action
Azania Imtiaz Khatri-Patel, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford
Socio-spatial aspects of organic and planned Dhaka: The sense of community and communal resilience embedded on indigenous settlement pattern
Kareshma-E-Shams, Independent Researcher
Social media and contemporary architecture in India – Instagram as the proverbial chronophotographic gun
Ekta Idnany, CEPT University
4:00 pm – 4:30 pmBreak
4:30 pm – 6:00 pmPanel 12: Formal/informal, public/private: Shifting categories
Chair: Neethi P
Insights into informal settlements through the spatial (re)appropriation of public spaces: The case studies of Lahore, Pakistan
M. Mashhood Arif, Yves Schoonjans and Oswald Devisch, KU Leuven, Belgium 
Using the built environment as an entry-point to understand urban informality
Nerea Amoros Elorduy, Creative Assemblages; Nikhilesh Sinha, Hult International Business School; Colin Marx, University College London
Mills to real estate: the trajectories of urban transformation across locked industrial lands in Serampore, Hooghly
Angana Banerjee, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
Too many worlds: Cognitive and catallactic entanglement in urban political economy
Jayat Joshi, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
Beyond the binaries of planning and pollution: Tales of entanglement in the Tel Aviv metropolitan region
Nathan Marom, School of Sustainability, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Israel
6:00 pm – 6:30 pmBreak
6:30 pm – 8:00 pmPanel 13: Governing in the urban: Across scale, space, and institutions
Chair: Neha Sami
Binaries of practice in the development of large infrastructure
Shreya Pillai, Independent Researcher
When governments rank governments: Gaming in city sustainability rankings
K Rahul Sharma, University of California, Santa Barbara; Centre for Policy Research
Governing the bodies and producing the fit city- Three logics to open gym in Delhi, India
Lakshyayog, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Participation as a game of cards: Pluriversal planning in the favela of Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Thaisa Comelli, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; Development Planning Unit – University College London
Heritage and hesitant urban production in Pondicherry: Flirting with urban coastal villages
Lalitha M, Nicolas Bautès, Devangi Ramakrishnan, French Institute of Pondicherry