Urban and Mobility Studies
Programme Head: Carol Upadhya
The Urban and Mobility Studies programme explores the diverse social transformations that have been set in motion in contemporary India by rapid economic growth, growing urbanisation, globalisation, and changing patterns of work, livelihoods and migration. Building on research carried out earlier by the Sociology and Social Anthropology Unit on Indian IT professionals and by the Urban Research and Policy programme, the programme’s new research agenda highlights the inter-connections between urban development, occupational change, skilling, and social and spatial mobilities. Projects will examine the linkages between labour migration, skill acquisition, and employment; the urbanisation of rural landscapes; the globalisation of cities and provincial towns; and pathways of mobility and circulation leading to the formation of social and economic networks at multiple scales (transnational, trans-regional, and trans-local), bringing together areas of research and policy debate that are usually pursued in isolation. The programme incorporates various disciplinary perspectives, including sociology and social anthropology, history and geography, as well as interdisciplinary areas of research such as urban studies and migration and transnational studies.
(1) World-City Planning in Andhra Pradesh: A New Model for Urbanisation?
PI: Carol Upadhya
Three years (July 2016 to June 2019), funded by Azim Premji Foundation
Land acquisition, urban renewal and planning, and infrastructure development are among the most politically contentious issues in India today, with ramifying implications for democracy, social justice, and development. This research project will address these issues through a longitudinal study of India’s most ambitious experiment in planned urban development since the early post-Independence years – the new capital city of Andhra Pradesh (Amaravati). The research will follow the development of the city over three years, documenting the social and economic consequences of the construction of a futuristic ‘greenfield’ city in the midst of an agrarian landscape. The Amaravati project, still in the planning stages, has already stimulated processes of urbanisation (planned and unplanned) and changes in land and livelihoods that will have profound effects on all the inhabitants of the capital region. The research will examine the variable consequences of ‘world-city’ urban planning for different social classes and communities, tracing changes in livelihood strategies, patterns of mobility, and new aspirations and visions of the future. It will also study the ‘land pooling’ system that was used to acquire land for the new capital, trace its connections with the real estate market, and explore the social consequences of the rapid conversion of agricultural land into a speculative asset. By mapping the dynamics of urbanisation in Amaravati and its impacts on the social welfare and economic security of local communities, the project will draw broader conclusions about the implications of this model of urban planning, land assembly, and infrastructure development for the creation of sustainable and equitable urban habitats in India.
(2) Speculative Urbanism: Land, Livelihoods, and Finance Capital
Collaborative project with University of Minnesota and University of California at Los Angeles. Comparative study of urban development in Bangalore and Jakarta; funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), USA (2017-20).
(3) India’s Changing Cityscapes: Work, Migration and Livelihoods.
Two-year collaborative research programme with Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore. Study of migrant labour in construction industry and service sector in Karnataka cites, funded by ICSSR (2017-19).
Past programmes and projects:
Provincial Globalisation:The Impact of Reverse Transnational Flows in India’s Regional Towns, a five-year international collaborative research programme with the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam, funded by WOTRO, the Netherlands (2010-15).
The Great Transformation: Urban Land Markets, Livelihoods and the Growing Ecological Crisis in Asia’s Cities. Collaboration with Michael Goldman and Vinay Gidwani, funded by Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC), University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (2013-16).
Upadhya, C., 2016. Reengineering India: Work, capital, and class in an offshore economy, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Available at: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/reengineering-india-9780199461486?cc=in&lang=en&.
Upadhya, C., 2016. Engineering equality? Education and im/mobility in coastal Andhra Pradesh, India. Contemporary South Asia, pp.1-15. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09584935.2016.1203863.
Upadhya, C., 2014. Employment, exclusion and ‘merit’ in the Indian IT industry. In The Problem of Caste: Essays from Economic and Political Weekly. The Problem of Caste: Essays from Economic and Political Weekly. pp. 141-151.
Upadhya, C., 2013. Return of the ‘Global Indian’: Software professionals and the worlding of Bangalore. In Nationalizing transnational mobility in Asia. Duke University Press, Durham. Nationalizing transnational mobility in Asia. Duke University Press, Durham. pp. 141-161. Available at: http://eprints.nias.res.in/724/.
Lectures and conference presentations:
- ‘Capital Dreaming: Speculative Planning and Spectacular Urbanism in Amaravati’. Seminar presentation, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, June 14, 2016.
- ‘Materialising Mobility: Migrant Property Investments in Coastal Andhra Pradesh, India’. Conference on Mobilities and Temporalities: Rethinking Migrant Trajectories and Transnational Lifestyles in the Asian Context, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, February 25-26, 2016.
- ‘Amaravathi and the New Andhra: Reterritorialisation and Transnational Circuits of Accumulation’. Seminar on Migration, ‘Heimat’, Homelands, Central University of Hyderabad, Departments of Sociology, Regional Studies, and Women’s Studies, February 11-12, 2016.
- ‘Amaravathi and the New Andhra: Globalising the Provincial?’ Public Lecture in ‘India and the World’ Series, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, November 4, 2015.
- ‘Speculating on Development: Provincial and Transnational Circuits of Accumulation in Andhra’s New Capital Region’. TISS, Mumbai, October 14, 2015.
- ‘Reterritorialising Andhra: Provincial Capital and Transnational Circuits of Accumulation in India’. Faculty Seminar at Sussex Asia Centre, University of Sussex, June 4, 2015.
- ‘Speculating on Development: Land, Provincial Capital, and the Visionary State in India’. Workshop on Speculation: New Vistas on Capitalism, Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics, May 28-29, 2015.
- ‘Engineering Mobility? Education, Social Aspirations, and (In)equalities in Coastal Andhra Pradesh’. Educational Records Research Unit, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, March 19, 2015.
- ‘Quality and Inequality: Engineering Education, IT Skills, and the Problem of “Employability”’ .Conference on Skill Development and Social Transformation in India, Oxford Department of International Development, January 12-13, 2015.
- ‘Provincial Globalisation: Remapping the Region in India’. Course on Production of Knowledge: Cultural Politics of Spatiality, Centre for Contemporary Studies, IISc, Bangalore, November 22, 2014.
- ‘Valuing Real Estate: Speculation in Land and Urban Transitions in South India’. NIAS-Exeter Interdisciplinary Symposium on Intangible Histories, College of Humanities, Exeter University, September 19, 2014.