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) Speculative Urbanism: Land, Livelihoods, and Finance Capital (2017-2021)
Funded by the National Science Foundation (USA) award no BCS-1636437
A major social experiment is underway in Asia’s rapidly growing cities. Compelled by the dominant urban planning models circulating through global policy networks, governments have acted to implement a vision of the ‘global city’ – a modern megalopolis of 10 to 20+ million people replete with world-class infrastructure and amenities. To realize this new urban vision requires enabling large financial investors to convert under-utilized land into fungible property, a process that is expected to enhance urban competitiveness and reduce poverty. But are such ambitious policies working out in practice?
This three-year research project, which started in January 2017, will produce an urgently needed analysis of the policies, practices, and effects of this experiment through a relational comparison of urban and peri-urban sites in two highly dynamic Asian cities – Jakarta and Bangalore. We seek to understand how this process is working on the ground, and to assess its implications for the livelihoods of those displaced. How land is acquired, consolidated, and converted from a social asset into a liquid financialized asset is critical to the execution of these large-scale projects.
To this end, the project has (1) studied the social networks and processes through which land is assembled and assetized; (2) examined the role of policy and financial networks in facilitating these processes and this regime of urban development; and (3) assessed how the resulting real estate and infrastructure projects impact the livelihoods of local communities and urban sustainability. The research design has pursued these objectives through a mixed-methods approach, with an emphasis on in-depth qualitative field research, combined with appropriate quantitative data and methods.
The research is contributing to scholarship on the transformation of southern mega-cities and on the relationship between financialization and urban change, by exploring in depth processes of displacement and dispossession as land it turned into real estate; providing new insights into the role of global policy, business and financial networks in shaping urban development; documenting the effects of large-scale urban development projects on the lives of local people and communities; and contributing to current high profile debates about how to best conceptualize urbanization in the global South. Through a relational comparison of Jakarta and Bangalore, we aim to develop a geographically and historically grounded theory of urban land transformations that can be tested in other similar contexts.
Principal Investigator: Prof. Vinay Gidwani, University of Minnesota
Co-investigators: Prof. Michael Goldman, University of Minnesota
Prof. Eric S. Sheppard, University of California Los Angeles
Prof. Helga Leitner, University of California Los Angeles
Prof. Carol Upadhya, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore
Please visit: https://www.speculativeurbanism.net/
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).
(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) India’s Changing Cityscapes: Work, Migration and Livelihoods
Funded by the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR), in collaboration with the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore
India’s cities have witnessed the expansion of the consumption-oriented ‘new service economy’ – especially low-skilled sectors such as hospitality, big retail, security services and transportation -- opening up new employment opportunities for youth with a range of educational levels and skills. The increasing importance of services, combined with the crisis in agriculture in many regions, rural unemployment, and rising levels of education as well as aspirations, have engendered new pathways and modalities of mobility, as potential workers flow into the city from rural areas and small towns in search of jobs. Current skill development programmes have also targeted these sectors to address the problem of unemployment. This two-year study examined the linkages between migration, skilling, employment, aspirations and socio-economic mobility among low-end service workers (especially migrants), based on extensive field research in Bengaluru and Raichur district, Karnataka.
Co-Principal Investigators: Carol Upadhya and Supriya RoyChowdhury
Sebastian, Aleena . 2020. “State and legal reform: A study of matrilineal Mappila Muslims of Malabar”. In Religion and Secularity: Reconfigurations of Islam in contemporary India , Religion and Secularity: Reconfigurations of Islam in contemporary India , New Delhi : Orient Blackswan Pvt Ltd, 51-80 .
Mitra, Snehashish . 2018. “Out-migration and Labour Mobility: Case Studies from Assam”. In Employment and Labour Market in North-East India: Interrogating Structural Changes, Employment and Labour Market in North-East India: Interrogating Structural Changes, New Delhi: Routledge India. https://www.routledge.com/Employment-and-Labour-Market-in-North-East-India-Interrogating-Structural/Xaxa-Saha-Singha/p/book/9781138550377.
Sebastian, Aleena . 2018. “Matrilineal Minangkabau: A critique of the universal theory of kinship and gender relations”. In Gender and work: International perspectives , Gender and work: International perspectives , New Delhi : Rawat Publications , 8-15 .
Upadhya, Carol . 2018. “Ghurye, Govind Sadashiv (1893–1983)”. In The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, JohnWiley & Sons, Ltd. https://www.wiley.com/en-ai/The+International+Encyclopedia+of+Anthropology,+12+Volume+Set-p-9780470657225.
Upadhya, Carol . 2018. “Capitalizing on the Future: Negotiating Planned Urbanization in South India”. In Urban Asias: Essays on Futurity Past and Present, Urban Asias: Essays on Futurity Past and Present, JOVIS Verlag. https://www.jovis.de/en/books/details/product/urban-asias.html.
Upadhya, Carol . 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., , 141-151.
Upadhya, Carol . 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, , 141-161. http://eprints.nias.res.in/724/.
Upadhya, Carol . 2016. Reengineering India: Work, capital, and class in an offshore economy. Delhi: Oxford University Press. https://global.oup.com/academic/product/reengineering-india-9780199461486?cc=in&lang=en&.
Upadhya, Carol . 2021. “Recasting Land: Agrarian Urbanism in Amaravati”. Urbanisation. https://journals.sagepub.com/eprint/PKSWGA2ZEHHZDWNQW3RG/full.
Kamath, Anant , and Neethi P. 2021. “Body politics and the politics of technology: technological experiences among street-based sex workers in Bangalore”. Gender, Technology and Development. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09718524.2021.1933348?src= .
Upadhya, Carol , and Sachinkumar Rathod. 2021. “Caste at the City’s Edge: Land Struggles in Peri-urban Bengaluru”. South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal 26: 01-28.
Choithani, Chetan , Robbin Jan van Duijne, and Jan Nijman. 2021. “Changing livelihoods at India’s rural–urban transition”. World Development 146(105617). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2021.105617.
Upadhya, Carol . 2020. “Assembling Amaravati: speculative accumulation in a new Indian city”. Economy and Society. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03085147.2019.1690257.
Mitra, Snehashish . 2019. “I have an Exam Tomorrow”. Economic & Political Weekly 54(16): 64. https://www.epw.in/journal/2019/16/postscript/%E2%80%98i-have-exam-tomorrow%E2%80%99.html.
Bardalai, Keya . 2019. “Malls versus streets: North-Eastern women between modernity and marginality”. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies.
Upadhya, Carol . 2017. “Amaravati and the New Andhra: Reterritorialization of a Region”. Journal of South Asian Development 12(2): 177-202. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0973174117712324?journalCode=sada.
Upadhya, Carol , and Leah Koskimaki. 2017. “Reconsidering the Region in India (Special Issue)”. Journal of South Asian Development 12 (2 ).
Verstappen, Sanderien . 2017. “Mobility and the Region: Pathways of Travel within and beyond Central Gujarat”. Journal of South Asian Development 12(2): 112-135. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0973174117711869?journalCode=sada.
Koskimaki, Leah . 2017. “Youth Futures and a Masculine Development Ethos in the Regional Story of Uttarakhand”. Journal of South Asian Development 12(2): 136-154. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0973174117711339?journalCode=sada.
Upadhya, Carol . 2016. “Engineering equality? Education and im/mobility in coastal Andhra Pradesh, India”. Contemporary South Asia: 1-15. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09584935.2016.1203863.
Sebastian, Aleena . 2016. “Matrilineal Practices along the Coasts of Malabar”. Sociological Bulletin 65(1 ): 89-106. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0038022920160106.
Sebastian, Aleena . 2013. “Matrilineal practices among Koyas of Kozhikode”. Journal of South Asian Studies 1(1 ): 66-82. https://esciencepress.net/journals/index.php/JSAS/article/view/113.
- 13 Jan 2020 NIAS Public Lecture: “Working Futures: The ILO, Automation and Digital Work in India” by Dr. Kaveri Ishwar Haritas, 4.00 PM
- 21 Oct 2019 Book Talk on ‘Narrow Fairways: Getting by and Falling Behind in the New India’, by Patrick Inglis (Changing India Series), NIAS Lecture Hall, 4.00 PM
- 26 Sep 2019 to 5 Oct 2019 NIAS Exhibition: "Speculative Urbanism: 'A Multimedia Exhibit on the Remaking of Bengaluru" is on display at Indian Institute of Human Settlements
- 27 Jul 2019 to 8 Aug 2019 NIAS Exhibition: Speculative Urbanism, A Multimedia Exhibit on the Remaking of Bengaluru, Vismaya Gallery, Rangoli Arts Centre, MG Road Metro Station
- 16 Jul 2019 Final Colloquium: Adivasi Rights and Wildlife Conservation: Contesting Citizenship in Nagarahole Tiger Reserve by Priya Gupta, Conference Hall II, NIAS, 11 AM
- 12 Jul 2019 NIAS Public Lecture: Narrative as Justice: Imagining Feminist Justice from #MeToo to Feminist Judgments Projects by Jhuma Sen, (Changing India Series), NIAS Lecture Hall, 4.00 PM
- 20 Dec 2018 NIAS Public Lecture (City at its Limits series): "City of waters: On leaks, sewage and the uncertain sea" by Dr. Nikhil Anand, Lecture Hall, NIAS, 1600hrs
- 16 Nov 2018 “Green and Blue”: Caste, Dalits and Indian environmentalism" by Mukul Sharma, Lecture Hall, NIAS, 1600hrs
- 20 Apr 2018 Local Node, Displacments Conference hosted by NIAS and Bangalore Research Network at NIAS Conference Hall, 1600hrs
- 29 Nov 2017 NIAS Wednesday Discussion: "Yellammanaata an overnight performance and Contemporary Play" by Sumitra Sunder, Lecture Hall, NIAS, 0930 hrs
Lectures and conference presentations:
- ‘Reimagining the urban: The present and the past’ (with Smriti Haricharan), INTACH NIAS Webinar Series, Back and Forth in Time: Lectures on the South Indian Past, June 24, 2020.
- ‘Becoming Urban: Caste and Land on the Periphery of Bangalore’. Making of Social Science (MOSS) Seminar, French Institute of Pondicherry, February 13, 2020.
- ‘Speculative Development: State Planning, Vernacular Capitalism and Land in Amaravati’. Work-in-Progress talk, South Asia Center, University of Pennsylvania, May 22, 2019.
- ‘Mobilizing the Youth? Peripatetic Labor in India’s New Service Economy’. CASI, University of Pennsylvania, May 1, 2019.
- ‘Speculating on Bangalore’s Urbanism: Land Transitions at the City’s Edge’, with Hemangini Gupta, Sachinkumar Rathod and Priyanka Krishna. Urban ARC, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru, January 10-12, 2019.
- ‘Rural Real Estate: Agrarian Land as a Financial Asset’. Sixth Network of Rural and Agrarian Studies International Conference, Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, September 20-22, 2018.
- Invited speaker, plenary session on 'The Urban Transformation of India', All India Sociological Conference, University of Lucknow, November 9 - 12, 2017: 'Globalising the Provincial: Translocal Circulations and Urban Change in Regional Towns'.
- ‘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.
- ‘What’s New about the “New India”? Capital and Class after Liberalization’, 22nd Annual Wertheim Lecture, University of Amsterdam, June 5, 2013.