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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library


‘Delhi’s Twentieth Century: Reflections on contemporary urbanism’, 11th september


A recent international study listed Delhi as the second most populous city in the world. Delhi’s endless expansion is comparable to other international city-regions like Sao Paulo and Mexico City. Further the city now has a new urban politics, as well as cultural life. Ironically, despite its thousand-year history, Delhi’s claim to a dynamic urbanism was for years overshadowed by the vibrant cultural and political life of Calcutta and Bombay, both cities established by colonial power. The catastrophes of 1857 and Partition crippled Delhi’s urban form. Colonial urbanism in Lutyens design and post independence planning sought to unsuccessfully provide a new urban form for sovereign power. Has contemporary Delhi finally exorcised the ghost of a crippled urbanism? Does the creative destruction unleashed by brutal intensity of the last decade resolve the critical question of Delhi’s ‘failed’ urbanism? By examining the cycles of the last century, this lecture lays out possible answers to this question.


Prof. Ravi Sundaram is a Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi. In 2000 he founded the well-known Sarai programme along with Ravi Vasudevan and the Raqs Media Collective. He is the author of Pirate Modernity: Media Urbanism in Delhi (2009), and No Limits: Media Studies from (2013). Prof. Sundaram has co-edited the Sarai Reader series, The Public Domain (2001), The Cities of Everyday Life (2002), Shaping Technologies (2003), Crisis Media (2004), and Frontiers (2007). His essays have been translated into various languages in India, Asia, and Europe. Prof. Sundaram has also been a visiting Professor at the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, the John Hopkins University Baltimore, Princeton University, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Oxford University, and Goldsmith College London.

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