The School of Public Policy is hosting a seminar on "Subaltern frontiers: agrarian city-making in Gurgaon" by Tom Cowan (University of Nottingham, UK) on Friday, the 24th of February 2023. See details about the talk, and the speaker bio below. We look forward to seeing you there!
Title: Subaltern frontiers: agrarian city-making in Gurgaon
Speaker: Tom Cowan (University of Nottingham, UK)
Venue: LH 213
Date and time: 24 February 2023 (Friday), 5 - 6.30 pm
Over the past twenty years, many parts of rural and peri-urban India have witnessed remarkable transformation as politicians, planners and the private sector have converged to refashion land for real estate investment, industrial development and urban expansion. While to some extent this 'real estate turn' conforms with broader patterns of urbanization in many parts of the world, this seminar discusses the particularly agrarian and uncertain trajectories of extended urbanisation in contemporary India. Drawing on ten years of fieldwork in the city of Gurgaon, once considered a vanguard of a new urban India, the seminar will discuss the ways the rapid urbanisation of the Haryana countryside has been articulated through agrarian institutions, actors and histories. Counter to scholarship that advances a theory of planetary dispossession and enclosure at the forefront of a global urbanisation, I argue that in Gurgaon it is the endurance of nonprivatized _abadi _lands that have brokered capital's access to rural land, it is those same village-monopolies that have fired agriculturalists into speculative rentier economies pushing at the city's boundaries; and it is agrarian institutions, technologies and logics that have unevenly aggregated and converted land into an investible asset. The implication of the agrarian world in urban expansion, this paper will argue, not only facilitates capitalist urban expansion but frequently stalls, augments and obstructs such expansion, producing quite other urban geographies. Attention to the articulation of the agrarian in urban spatial production draws us into the uncertain political grounds upon which urban expansion is waged.
Tom Cowan is an assistant professor in geography at the University of Nottingham. His research interests focus on the geographies of extended urbanisation, property making and labour politics. His book "Subaltern frontiers: agrarian city-making in Gurgaon" was published by Cambridge University Press in 2022. He is currently conducting research on property digitization in peri-urban Delhi and Gurgaon.