Cities in a World of Villages: Agrarian-Urban Transformation in India's Urbanizing Frontier

Authors: Shubhra Gururani*, York University
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: urbanization, agrarian change, rural-urban, land, caste and class, Gurgaon, India
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8212, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Amidst extensive land acquisition and peripheral urbanization currently underway in India, this paper considers the social-spatial configuration of rural in the urban and describes how the patchy terrain of urbanization is historically produced in this political-economic conjuncture. It focuses on India’s Millennial City, Gurgaon, in the outskirts of New Delhi and considers the so-called urban villages that may have over the years become invisible and pushed behind buildings and highways, but they nonetheless remain central to sustaining and coproducing the urbanizing frontier in multiple ways. From an ethnographic perspective, the paper situates urbanization in the sedimented history of uneven agrarian development, particularly the Green Revolution and changing milk economy, and shows how land-based caste and class relations and state planning shaped the contours of agrarian-urbanism. It argues that these urban villages are neither remnants of the past nor are they part of a completely urbanized fabric, instead they register a mode of spatial production that can be identified as ‘agrarian urbanism,’ an urbanism which is anchored in the changing agrarian regimes of land and livelihoods; an urbanism that exceeds the city/urban. Agrarian urbanism, the paper further argues, constitutes one of the key characteristic features of South Asian urbanism, and perhaps of most agrarian societies and can help us stretch the comparative register and disrupt the standard conceptual terrain of urban theory that tends to be largely city-centric or even urban-centric.

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