Towards a History of Agrarian Urbanism

Authors: Will Glover*, University Michigan-Ann Arbor
Topics: Asia, Historical Geography, Land Use
Keywords: agrarian urbanism, history, small town, India
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8212, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Unpacking the history of small town urbanism in India requires that we attend to the many ways efforts to establish a distinct boundary between rural and urban milieus have run aground on phenomena, processes, and social forms that elude any such easy distinction. The durability of the rural/urban nomenclature, despite long-term awareness of its shortcomings, itself constitutes a historical problem. This paper will illuminate one path into that problem by analyzing an early twentieth century project designed to translate decentralized civic institutions and activities more common in small cities into the space of rural villages. Frank Lugard Brayne’s experiments in Gurgaon, where he was District Commissioner during the late 1920s, initiated a lasting template for bringing rural reconstruction and uplift activity into dialog with the emergent discipline of town planning. If small town urbanism in India today is deeply enmeshed in rural processes, then this paper attempts to reverse the gaze by asking how expert knowledge directed toward managing rural change in twentieth century India depended crucially on emergent urban paradigms.

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