Time and the Modern South Asian City



Sneha Krishnan (Oxford), Megan Eaton Robb (UPenn), Elizabeth Chatterjee (UChicago)

South Asian studies is arguably undergoing a temporal turn. Scholars have begun to explore the complex ways in which multiple pasts are visible in the contemporary present, and to critically unpack the time-stories and narratives that underlie the colonial archive. In this pre-conference, we will bring questions of time and modernity to bear on the study of cities in South Asia. Urban spaces invite reflections about multiple temporalities, mobilities and publics. Debates about mobility, change and identity rely on time to place the city, map those who dwell in it and pass through it, and imbue the urban with meaning.

Locating the city in the context of broader debates that address modernity as a temporal problem, this pre-conference will interrogate narratives of historical inevitability and irretrievable loss, as well as imaginaries of futurity and acceleration. Bringing together diverse strands of scholarship in the study of cities and modernity in South Asia, we will interrogate the relationship between the representation of time – in narrative, in mediatized images and in everyday talk – and time as a site of affective, ethical and economic labor.


The main questions that we plan to address include:

- What assumptions about time underwrite histories of the South Asian city? How do fictional and cinematic narratives, as well as the nonfiction of newspapers and journalism, discursively produce the temporal architecture of the city?
- In what ways do networks of capital – within and beyond the South Asian region – and their uneven temporalities shape the urban imaginary?
- How should we understand urban waste? What meaning do ruins hold in places where waste is generated so rapidly?

- How do religious, spiritual and spectral experiences shape the temporalities of urban life?


Confirmed Attendees

Smriti Srinivas (University of California, Davis)
Ketaki Pant (Brown University)
Michael Dodson (Indiana University Bloomington)

Faridah Zaman (University of Chicago)
Sneha Krishnan (University of Oxford) - Ruins and Spectrality

Megan Eaton Robb (University of Pennsylvania)
Elizabeth Chatterjee (University of Chicago)

Nikhil Rao (Wellesley College)
Neelam Khoja (Harvard University)

Heba Islam and Shahana Rajani (Johns Hopkins University)
Eric Beverley (Stonybrook University)

Abhishek Kaicker (University of California, Berkeley)