J. Watumull Scholarship Report
By Rohan Kalyan
2008 J. Watumull Scholar
Ph.D. Candidate, Political Science
I would like to take this opportunity to express thanks to the J. Watamull Scholarship Foundation for giving me the opportunity to conduct dissertation research in India during the winter 2008-2009 in Delhi. My dissertation research is trying to address the new urbanism that is reshaping city life all across India. Using Delhi as a case-study, I am exploring new practices of architecture, land-use, modes of transportation, provision of urban infrastructure, and the re-settlement of slum communities in order to map out how Delhi's recent "urban renewal" is productive of new social and political experiences that differ across a distribution of positions and sensibilities. My basic premise is that space and movement are two ways in which to think the re-shaping of urban subjectivities in neoliberal India, such that the most important distinctions in contemporary Indian society have to do with those who have or do not have access to certain spaces, and those who are differently mobile across urban space and up the social hierarchy.
In my time in Delhi, I have been affiliated with the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), a research center that houses scholars of many different backgrounds, from all over India and the world. Located in the serene Civil Lines neighborhood of north Delhi, CSDS is also home to Sarai, an urban studies/new media collective that hosts resident artists, academics, and activists concerned with questions pertaining to the urban. In early February, Sarai played host to renowned political philosopher Jacques Ranciere, whose early work "Nights of Labor" had recently been translated by CSDS researcher Abey Dubey into Hindi for the first time. Ranciere gave a lecture and a workshop on his work on politics and aesthetics, and graciously responded to queries and comments regarding his work. I had the opportunity to sit with him and tell him about my own project and how it is, in part, influenced by his theoretical interventions. The whole experience was as inspiring as it was informative.
I would like to thank Sarai and the many intellectuals at CSDS for providing stimulating conversations, insights, and anecdotes that made me feel like a part of a dynamic intellectual community in Delhi. In particular, I'd like to thank Ravi Sundaram, co-founder of Sarai, for helping me adjust to my new surroundings and giving me valuable contacts in the field of urban design and architecture. With these contacts I was able to begin my research and branch out into new and often times unexpected directions with my research.
Most of all, I'd like to thank the Watamull Foundation and the Center of South Asian Studies for making all this possible. Due to this trip to Delhi, I have forged life-long friendships with academics, artists and activists in the Delhi area. I will always have a home in this politically complex and historically rich city.
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