Being World Class: Development and the Knowledge Hegemony

Authors: Nipesh Palat Narayanan*, Department of Sociology, University of Colombo
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography, Asia
Keywords: World class, knowledge hegemony, southern theory, planning, South Asia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: 8212, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since the turn of the century, the focus on a fast urbanizing world has taken an alarming concern in South Asia. Most of these urban dwellers now live in the so-called, substandard environment of informal settlements and requisite modernization. This process of modernization is argued to derive its imageries from the abstracted northern notions of the urban. One phrase which captures this process is the gleaming aspiration of cities to be world class. The quintessential mandate to be world class is to eliminate the other urban, which is often referred to as slums, informal settlements, and by other local taxonomies, usually highlighting the politics of materialities and ecological constructs. Although there is much literature on how the global image-flows manufacture this idea of the world class, there is a gap in understanding how the provincialized version of this world class is constructed by the othering process, within a region. This article is about the politics of this othering process. I look into this via a comparative analysis of the materialities and ecological constructs in the first and current master plans for the city of Delhi and Colombo. This analysis is then juxtaposed with qualitative fieldwork from both the cities. Uncovering the differing connotations of the world class in two different capital cities, the results show that the idea of world class, when unpacked, is a much local construct. This provincialized outlook on world class highlights regional knowledge hegemonies and the politics of disenfranchising certain urban practices.

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