URBZ will be part of a team affiliated to the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India that will conduct a course on the ‘Politics of Urban Space’ with post graduate students of the The Habitat School, Tata Institute of Social Sciences between January and April 2010.
The following are the details of the TISS Habitat Studies course
Title: Politics of Urban Space
Faculty: Shilpa Phadke (SP), Matias Echanove (ME), Rahul Srivastava (RS), Sameera Khan (SK) and Shilpa Ranade (SR).
* This course will introduce students to basic concepts, ideas and structures in urban space.
* It will explore and explain the way in which concepts to do with power and imagination work in urban contexts. The variables that will be used include gender, class, community, neighbourhoods, localities, the state, bureaucracy and ethnicity.
Basic concepts that will be discussed include: Urbanism, power, social construction of space, social imagination, locality and context, gender, class, community, safety, respectability, design, citizenship
Method of Teaching: Lectures, group projects, field work and discussions
Method of Assessment and Weightage:
Term assignments 100%
I. Introductory Session (RS, ME, SP, SR, SK)
In this session, we will broadly introduce our course, present its outline and discuss the research interests of the faculty and students.
II. Urbanism (RS, ME)
We explore the experience of urbanism in terms of historical and conceptual debates.
Historical: To question the tribal, rural, urban evolutionary framework and explore more complex explanatory tools.
Conceptual: Critically examine the binaries that are embedded in understanding urbanism – rural/urban, vertical/horizontal, primary/secondary, private/public, work/play, home/outside
III. The Production of Space I (RS, ME)
This section understands the concept of urbanism in terms of how all environments (with their imaginative and material dimensions) are constantly being produced by the active agency of their inhabitants. It will explore space in terms of its non-spatial dimension – for example economic exchanges, political expansion, nomadism, migration, movement of goods and ideas, the moment of the bazaar and the ability of information and communication technologies to expand and contract spatial contexts
IV. The Production of Space II (SP, SR, SK)
We explore the concepts and ideas around space, gender and power, interrogating the constructions of various binaries (private-public, respectability-unrespectability, safety-violence, risk-rationality) around them. The discussions will dwell upon understanding how hierarchies of age, gender, race, class, and community are encoded in domestic and public spaces. We also aim to problematize the notion of a neutral user of urban space and will focus on the role of built form as a mechanism of control. The notion that space is not a neutral background against which social processes occur, but is implicated in the production of these processes will also be discussed. Ideas such as the socio-cultural production of gender, gendered divisions of labour, notions of masculinity and femininity, will also be a part of this session.
Possible Class Exercises: ‘Putting People in Place’ or College mapping ex.
V. Power (RS, ME)
We explore how ideological interpretations of urban space shape choices with regard to contemporary urban practices
In this section we interrogate and analyze how a specific configuration – the‘city’ has come to dominate all discussions on urbanism and how it is connected to political and economic interests. We will frame these discussions in terms of specific and concrete examples in lived contexts.
VI. Sexuality, Respectability and Public Space (SP, SR, SK)
In this class, we will discuss issues of public sexuality, class and ‘reputation’ in relation to the issues of couples in public spaces, bar-girls, public soliciting, and the presence of women in public spaces. Through these cases we will raise questions of honour, consent, middle-classness, respectability and Indian-ness in relation to public sexuality.
We will also explore the creation of new ‘private’ public spaces using illustrative cases of exploring shopping malls, multiplexes, paid parks. We will use these to understand how both ideas of ‘femininity’ and ‘the public’ get constructed through these spaces.
Possible Class Film Screenings: Screening Freedom Before 11 (25 minutes), a PUKAR Gender & Space project film, and some clips from Chandni Bar (2001), dir. by Madhur Bhandarkar.
VII. Constructing Community through Space (SP, SR, SK)
We explore the ideas of locality, neighbourhood, ethnicity and community in the city. How do these issues come to play with regard to public space? When gender intersects with ethnicity, how does public space get constructed? When violence meets a community head on, does public space recede and are limitations then imposed on women’s movement? We look at some of the dynamics at work and play here, particularly with regard to minority groups.
VIII. Construction of Space and the Social Imagination (RS, ME)
We discuss how space simultaneously involves a negotiation of material environments and imaginative and cultural ones. The idea is to help develop a methodological understanding in which urban debates involve a constant awareness of the relationship between these dimensions when dealing with the urban space.
We will take specific examples of urban conflict from around the world and show how they emerge when the imaginative or the material dimensions of urban life are either ignored or over-ridden.
IX. Self and the Production of Safety (SP, SR, SK)
Anonymity, diversity and freedom that allows for nonconformity and experimentation make city living desirable, especially for those who are marginalized by gender and/or caste. But does anonymity really produce safety? And does being invisible mean that one always feels comfortable in the city? And if not, how do women then find their way through the city and produce safety for themselves. Students own experiences of public space will be discussed using this as a means of understanding how access to spaces is not necessarily democratic.
Here we will discuss sexual harassment in the city, legal measures and women’s strategies to produce safety for themselves. We will also address questions of ideology in regard to “women asking for trouble” by means of inappropriate dress or behaviour.
Possible Class Film Screenings: Memories of Fear (60 mins), directed by Madhusree Datta.
X. Inclusive by Design (SP, SR, SK)
What are the strategies for a gender-sensitive approach to design? We will explore the various aspects of gendered design including issues related to urban public transport, toilets and parks. Drawing on our earlier architectural mapping projects (PUKAR Gender & Space project), we will discuss how safety is materially produced (or not produced) in urban public space through the design of elements of the edge, skin, lighting, and street furniture.
XI. The Urban Activist (RS, ME)
This section will examine the emergence of the urban activist and new practices of engagement in urban politics. In the same way urban space is both physical and conceptual, the urban activist’s field of operation extends beyond the physical realm. We will discuss emergent forms of urban activism, which situate themselves at the intersection of these dimensions.
XII. Re-Imagining Space: Risk, Loitering & Pleasure in the City (SP, SR, SK)
In this class, we will discuss the foregoing sessions and the ideas they have generated and focus on the inter-linkages between the built environment and the prevailing ideologies. We will try to use these to re-imagine spaces that are more democratic focussing on questions such as: Are separate spaces desirable? Are these separate spaces safe? At the same time, we will take the discussion forward and bring in ideas relating to risk, loitering, pleasure and citizenship.
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