ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Cities and Citizenships

Urbanising Citizenship: Contested Spaces in Indian Cities edited by Renu Desai and Romola Sanyal (New Delhi: Sage Publications), 2011; pp 268, Rs 695.

This edited volume traverses highly varied territory and presents des­criptive and analytical accounts of events and experiences in different cities of India. In a thoughtful and sympathetic afterword, Janaki Nair assures the reader that in spite of the bewildering heterogeneity of experiences and i­nter­pretations, citizenship with its multi­ple meanings is the unifying theme of this collection of absorbing essays. Yet a careful reading is required if the reader is interested in picking up any common threads. The introductory chapter by the editors helps, but only up to a point. Arjun Appadurai’s characterisation, quoted by Nair, of urban citizenship as an area of redundancy and multiplicity of claims prevails (p 232). In keeping with this summation, the book is replete with expressions like “medieval modernity”, “bourgeois environmentalism”, “subaltern urbanism”, “politics of patience” and many more.

Each essay in the volume bears ample testimony to the scholarship and analy­tical skills of the contributors. In her account of post-Godhra Ahmedabad, Renu Desai offers a hypothesis on how Hindutva folded into citizenship, helped by the politics of forgetting and erasure, as well as well-mounted efforts to project Vibrant Gujarat’s image of economic growth. The question remains how far the communal divide in Ahmedabad can be taken as representative of urban space in India.

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