Royal Holloway History Department Research Seminar Series
1 December 2009
Tommaso Bobbio – Urban change, inequality and collective violence in the construction of an Indian metropolis: Ahmedabad, 1930-2000
What dynamics contribute to emergence of social tensions and conflicts in an urban environment? Mass mobilisations and episodes of collective violence have been a constant element in the development of large Indian cities over the twentieth century, and the emergence of a deep fracture between the Hindu and the Muslim community has informed social, political and cultural transformations in post-colonial urban environments. Taking Ahmedabad city (north-western India) as a case study, this paper analyses the explosion of collective violence as part of long-term dynamics of urban transformation. Group tensions can be seen as the expression of social, economic and spatial inequalities that consolidated unbalanced patterns of urban territorial and demographic growth. At the same time, the management of urban growth at a political level contributed to the construction of an urban geography where social differences are inscribed in the organisation of the space. In this context, episodes of collective violence have two dimensions: on one side, they can be read as moments when the many instances of inequality find expression in open confrontations at a street level; on the other, violence leaves deep marks in the city’s social and physical landscape and, in this sense, it is an integral element in the process of urban construction and organisation over time.