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The City and its Fragments: Colonial Bombay, 1854-1918
April 26, 2010 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Resident Fellow (2009-2010)
Languages and Cultures of Asia, UW-Madison
This paper is a study of the role of native communities in the physical transformation of colonial Bombay. Exploring the impact of encounters between different groups, the paper shows that colonial Bombay was not simply the result of ideas emanating from Britain. Instead, it was the product of a cultural encounter between Indians and the British colonial regime. Here, the city was shaped by the spatial interventions of a variety of groups in a context of unequal power relations. This project foregrounds everyday life and informal processes by which various communities and groups constructed and remade the city in their interaction with the colonial state. The city was both fragmented (spatially by race, religion, and community) and yet came together from time to time as an intellectual idea and as a spatial arena. The paper argues that these processes of coming together contributed to a sense of a singular city that different communities felt they had a stake in, thus suggesting the existence of a common ground at the urban level.
Preeti Chopra is Assistant Professor of Visual Culture Studies in the Department of Languages & Cultures of Asia and Design Studies Department. Her research concentrates on architecture and urbanism in South Asia, with a focus on western and more recently, northern India in the colonial and postcolonial context. Chopra’s work has addressed such diverse themes as the practices of naming, charity, and philanthropy, the place of religion in the secular public realm, architectural style and its meaning, and the heritage movement in postcolonial Bombay. Chopra teaches classes on taste, colonial spaces, the visual cultures of South Asia, and the cities of Asia. Her forthcoming publications include A Joint Enterprise: The Indian Making of British Bombay, 1854-1918 (University of Minnesota Press, in press). At the IRH she is working on her second book manuscript The City and its Fragments: Colonial Bombay, 1854-1918.