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Wednesday Seminar | Rethinking the ‘Southern Urban’ via a Tongbian Framing of Land’s Property Relations and Territory: Mumbai’s Malad and Hong Kong’s Kowloon| 26 April, 2023 @ 3 P.M. IST | Zoom Webinar

26 Apr 2023
Wing-Shing Tang, Solomon Benjamin
Venue: Zoom Webinar
Time: 3:00 PM

Scholars of post-colonial shaped Southern Urbanism, across ideological persuasions, could view Mumbai’s fastest growing district Malad, and Kowloon’s Sham Shui Po’s to be set within a common narrative. Malad Mindspace and InOrbit Mall to future neighbouring Somwari Bazar’s densely-packed industries; newcomers to Hong Kong’s Kowloon sited ‘slum’-looking tenements with archaic, densely tenanted balconies would assume these to give way to clichéd high-end cafés and malls housing Starbucks. Locating such territories as urban renewal, ‘Speculative Urbanism’, or where ‘gentrification’ settles capital’s frontier built around Accumulation by Dispossession (ABD), leads to attempts to ‘provincialize’ ABD and incorrectly locate such territories as ‘slums and Informal’. Halvorsen (2019) rightly questions such underlying dominant Anglophone perspectives derived from the Westphalian state. However, for him, the ‘South’ remains as ‘hybrid’: sites of ‘multiplicities and diversity’, rather than understood in terms of entangled interactions between different forces.

In this talk, Benjamin & Tang discuss their co-authored work with Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty: ‘Land’s Mutual Embeddedness in Property Relations & and Territory’. Here, a Tongbian understanding allows a serious consideration of the ‘thickness’ of property with overlaid ‘situated histories’ representing entangled and fluid relationships. This is central in analysing change premised on difference without alienation, rather than the idea of dialectics. This shift in approach allows us a conceptual entry into state spaces and practices that are otherwise represented, again across ideological positions, as patron-clientelism whose ‘vote bank’ politics poses popular groups as a deviant society, roped in as local agents of a global value chain.


About the Speakers

Wing-Shing Tang was formerly Professor at the Department of Geography and Research Fellow at Advanced Institute for Contemporary China Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, China. With a PhD from Cambridge University, and M.Sc. in Urban and Regional Planning from University of Toronto, he is widely published to interrogate urban theories in China, with special emphasis on town-country relations. Some of his questions include, what is urban ideology in China? How to contextualize it? Are debates about the differentiation between the city and urbanization relevant to China? How can one interpret China’s town-country relations, within the politics and administration of the Chinese state?

Solomon Benjamin is presently faculty at IIT Madras’s Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. With PhD from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies, his work has focused on the triangulate: the varied logics of land whose tenurial spatialities conceived as situated histories are explored around the concept of Occupancy Urbanism; an entanglement of state spaces producing urban terrains beyond rationale of Master Planning; and, how these two realms interconnect with the materiality of economy of mostly small firms as a ‘Neighbourhood as Factory’; explored earlier in electrical cables and conductors, silk, machine tools, and more recently, in terms of the trans-national connect to Shenzhen in smartphone re-engineering and refurbishment.


About the Chair

Ritu Agarwal is an Associate Professor at Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, JNU. She holds a Ph.D. in Chinese Studies from the University of Delhi, and an M.A. in Political Science, from JNU. Her doctoral work explored the micro-level agrarian transformation in Yunnan province, and she is currently engaged in questions of provincial transformation, especially in Yunnan. Her research interests are rural political economy, urbanization, gender studies and provincial politics. Dr. Ritu Agarwal studied Mandarin Chinese at Beijing Language and Culture University, Beijing. She was a visiting scholar at Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, Kunming, and visiting fellow at Yunnan Minzu University and Yunnan University recently. She was affiliated with the Chinese University of Hong Kong and East Asia Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore.

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