[CSH Seminar] Vernacular Urbanism. Memory and Social Segregation in a Deccan City (T B Hansen)

[CSH Seminar] Vernacular Urbanism. Memory and Social Segregation in a Deccan City (T B Hansen)

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Prof. Thomas Blom HANSEN

(Reliance-Dhirubhai Ambani Professor of Anthropology, Stanford University)

Vernacular Urbanism. Memory and Social segregation in a Deccan city

Discussant: Dr. Diya Mehra, Assistant Professor of Sociology, South Asian University

on 13th June 2022, 09:00 AM IST onwards

At Centre de Sciences Humaines, CSH conference room (1st floor)
2 Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Road, New Delhi, 110011

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In this essay, I would like to invert the idea of ‘modern memory’ being a corrupted and inauthentic hybrid of folk memory and historical knowledge. Instead, I propose that over the past decades in western India—and possibly in India as a whole—the quest for constructing and imagining a distinct, and perhaps heroic, historical memory has been driven by a desire for recognition in public spaces and democratic electoral politics by different communities. The result has been a creation of multiple, parallel, competing and antagonistic (re-)constructions of the past. By exploring the history of mobilization and conflict between distinct communities in a single city and region in western India, this contribution tries to show that each of these constructions seek to unify the community around a stable ‘memory archive’, expressed in carefully staged celebrations of crucial events, dates and physical monuments. Conceptually, it proposes that democracy does not only produce a promise of self-governing people, it also powerfully reconfigures the past as a series of separate, competing and segregated memory archives as each community and ‘people’ imagines its own discrete and heroic past.


Thomas Blom Hansen is the Reliance-Dhirubhai Ambani Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University, Chair of the Department of Anthropology and the founding director of the Center for South Asia at Stanford (2010-2017). He has done extensive work on the rise of Hindu nationalism in India, Hindu-Muslim conflicts, urban politics and social dynamics in Mumbai, the anthropology of the state, configurations of sovereignty in the post colonial world, as well as township life, religious revival, melancholia, memory and cultural politics among Indians in post-apartheid South Africa. He is the author of The Saffron Wave. Democracy and Hindu nationalism in modern India (Princeton University Press 1999); Wages of Violence. Naming and identity in postcolonial Bombay (Princeton University Press 2001); Cool Passion. The Political Theology of Modern Convictions (Amsterdam University Press 2009) and Melancholia of Freedom. Social Life in an Indian Township in South Africa. (Princeton University Press 2012). His most recent book is The Law of Force. On the Violent Heart of Indian Politics (Aleph Books 2020). (https://anthropology.stanford.edu/people/thomas-blom-hansen)

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