URBAN SOUTH ASIA WRIT SMALL
Noah Schumer and Nidhi Subramanyam
South Asian urbanity is multi-faceted.
However, it has mostly been understood through the lifestyles and challenges of
residents in its globally linked mega- cities. Less attention has been paid to
the social, political, economic, and cultural conditions in smaller cities,
with population thresholds below one million, which house a majority of urban
South Asians. What are the various global and regional networks that these
small cities and towns are embedded in? What are their growth trajectories and
what role can policies play? What form is modernity taking in these smaller
places that straddle the global as well as the rural- urban divide differently
from the metros? Why do small cities matter?
These were the questions animating
the Urban South Asia Writ Small conference, held at Cornell April 20-21,
2018. Organized by the Cornell–Syracuse South Asia Consortium, the conference
drew expertise from the fields of anthropology, planning, economics, history,
art, and religious studies to investigate urbanization processes in South
Asia’s small cities. Academics from several universities across the United States
as well as India, Pakistan, France, and the United Kingdom presented their work
on small cities.
The keynote presentation by Ann G. Gold (Religion & Anthropology, Syracuse University), “Jahazpur Passages: Thinking Through a Rajasthan Market Town,”
described the various
disciplinary and methodological lenses or passages
through which small towns may be entered,
thus setting the stage for the inter-disciplinary conversations that followed over the course of two days. The conference was structured around three panels, which
examined the histories of small town
urbanism in South Asia, regional linkages and planning practices that shape
their development, and socio-cultural transformations effected by globalization.
The conference was jointly
organized by Dan Gold and Neema Kudva from Cornell University,
and Carol Babiracki and Ann
Gold from Syracuse University. It was a collaborative effort between Cornell’s
South Asia Program and
the Department of City and Regional
Planning and was funded
by the Mario Einaudi Center for Inter-
national Studies and the U.S. Department of Education through a Title VI grant.