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    Thesis Abstract (Beta Release2)

    By Arjun Bhat
    Nov 10, '07 2:11 AM EST

    So I've given another stab at my thesis abstract. After reading it a few more times, I was a bit wary of the title i gave it, which spun some of the argument. This isn't to say that I wiped the idea of "unwanted" urban migration as actually an essential aspect of Mumbai's economic success - i still do - its just that in the end, it isn't exactly the question or hypothesis i want to put forward. It was more of a sociological, historical theorem, which while i find it interesting and of definite value, isn't going to by itself yield an understanding of space or built form. So after doing more research into Mumbai's economic breakdown, forecast, and the labor and resources required for the city's economic engines to keep running (which was rather depressing) I decided to approach the thesis from a slightly more speculative angle. Also, I ditched an upfront fascination with "third space" - while i still find it valuable as a method of analysis of space, it wasn't going to get me any closer to the specific physical thing i would create in the end. It's still in there, but i feel like i'm moving towards integrating it with the body of the investigation a bit more smoothly. I have, however, found De Certeau to be a valuable source from which to re-affirm my initial desires to reconcile static forms of program with more transient flows. So here goes, once again, constructive comments/criticism more than welcome.


    “Space is not a “reflection of society,” it is society … They will express and perform the interests of the dominant class according to a given mode of production and to a specific mode of development. They will express and implement the power relationships of the state in an historically defined society … At the same time, spatial forms will be earmarked by the resistance from exploited classes, from oppressed subjects, and from dominated women. And the work of such a contradictory historical process on the space will be accomplished on an already inherited spatial form, the product of former history and the support of new interests, projects, protests, and dreams.” (De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life)

    “Recognition of the collaborative nature of urbanism and the mutual dependence of formal institutions and curricular programmes with their outside – the informal and local economies and institutions of the city as extracurricular space …” (Krishnan et al., The City as Extracurricular Space: Re-Instituting Urban Pedagogy in South Asia)

    This thesis studies the urban condition of Mumbai and is premised upon certain understandings regarding urban migration, new economic transformations, speculative development patterns, and imagined socio-cultural territories within the city. It seeks to analyze the potential intersection of these factors with regard to Mumbai’s future urban development and engages the potentials of trends of urbanization that have taken place during the city’s colonial history. If Colonial infrastructure was a physical armature that lent itself to flexible patterns of economy and inhabitation, can this “formalized informality” be mined as a strategic departure point in conceiving of future urban forms within the city? Additionally, are current avenues of discourse regarding the urban issues of Mumbai independently sufficient to fully engage the breadth of possible critical solutions? This thesis stages its investigation in predicted scenarios of economic fallout resulting from current patterns of self-destructive urban development in order to offer grounds for new speculations on solutions to current issues.

    Given the forthcoming development of a city-wide rapid transit system linking the outer edges of Mumbai to its core, the programmatic departure point of the project will be twofold: the provision of facilities which can facilitate the reincorporation of displaced urban migrants from the city fringes to the core, as well as a new seat of city governance. Can the development of an urban project deploy formal strategies of public structure which allow for localized tactical intervention? Is it possible to create a framework for the co-existence of Mumbai’s seemingly bipolar formal and informal economic spheres? The goal of such a system is to create a constructive stage for civic exchange within the city, one that engages Mumbai’s many socio-economic territories while providing a robust public structure to withstand trends of destructive privatized development.


    • now i'm MUCH more interested. still some refining that can happen, but i think you'll get there as the idea gets leaner and more directed, as you start answering some of the questions you ask here.

      one thing: i'd try to reframe some of the questions that can be answered "yes/no" with questions that suggest more discursive ways of answering them so that you don't end up at dead ends.

      Nov 10, 07 7:34 am  · 

      De Certau is certainly provocative. I wonder why he feels he can assert those claims so forcefully when evidence to the contrary is so readily available (think of the struggles of the opressed anywhere in the world; they do not tend to earmark space very forecefully, if at all; in the end they remain opressed except in special circumstances)...maybe he is wishing for something that does not exist? or he has examples? i do not know his writing and am mostly responding based on my exposure to world news...DOES he give examples where the opressed earmark space in special ways? i will have to read him now i think...

      anyway, the abstract is interstingly provocative.

      it is too early perhaps, but i would be interested in reading about what strategies you will use, how they will be measured, and maybe identify the problems you will addres more explicitly. without that it will be hard to say you have achieved anything as the level of intent is so abstract. really almost anything you do could fit the bill as it stands.

      very much looking forward to seeing where it will go.

      Nov 11, 07 9:34 pm  · 
      Arjun Bhat

      yeah, i have identified those problems, and am in the process of hammering them out in the form of a more detailed project brief. In the interest of succinctness i glossed over the details of those aspects in order to get the main idea of the proposal out in the open.

      What DeCerteau describes is more or less an ideal form, but I feel that the general idea it discusses is its main value, at least, for this study. Also, its important to note that De Certeau's big idea - that is, the strategy and the tactic - isn't exactly describing resistance in terms of "le resistance" - but rather, the practices of everyday life that attempt to make habitable spaces within imposed orders.

      Arjun Appadurai brings up something very close to this in his discussion of the "illusion of permanence," regarding practices of inhabitation and information gathering by the urban poor in Mumbai. Check out Perspecta #34 for an interview regarding the subject.

      Nov 12, 07 12:25 am  · 

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