(In)flexible Cities Seminar #2: Contested Spaces and Urban Citizenship in India

Romola Sanyal’s talk will address multiple narratives of Dharavi, Mumbai and how these competing and complimentary narratives produce particular claims to citizenship. Much of the work is based around her recent and brief fieldwork in Dharavi, but also draws on postcolonial theory. The fieldwork entailed going on several ‘slum tours' and the talk will pick up on how the slum is narrated through these and other media.

Romola Sanyal is Lecturer in Global Urbanism at Newcastle University. Her work focuses on the intersection between Refugee Studies and Urban Studies in trying to understand how refugee spaces urbanize. Studying refugee 'colonies' in Calcutta and camps in Beirut, the work endeavours to show how the production of space is central to the production of refugee identity and rights. The aim is not only to debunk widely held beliefs that refugee camps form spaces of exception, by pointing to the complexity of relations that construct refugee identities and spaces, but to show how these sites are becoming increasingly informalized and urbanized as a result of particular geopolitics. Her work studying the refuge through the lens of the city raises critical questions of identity, citizenship and belonging can be raised particularly in relation to space and place.

Romola Sanyal has published in journals such as Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, Social Identities (2009), Urban Studies (2011), Geography Compass (forthcoming), and has chapters in forthcoming books such as Urbanizing Citizenship: Contested Spaces in Indian Cities (Renu Desai and Romola Sanyal, eds) and The Postconflict Environment (Daniel B. Monk, ed). Her book Urbanizing Citizenship: Contested Spaces in Indian Cities (Sage, India) is forthcoming in November, 2011. Her Ph.D. dissertation Architectures of Displacement: On Identity and Refugee Space in Beirut and Calcutta won the 2010 Social Science Research Council-IDRF Book Fellowship award.

Before coming to Newcastle, Romola worked at University College London and at the Open University and was the inaugural postdoctoral fellow at the Chao Center for Asian Studies, Rice University. She has a Ph.D in Architecture from University of California, Berkeley and an M.Sc in Cities, Space and Society (Geography) from the London School of Economics. She currently serves on the executive board of the International Association of the Study of Traditional Environments.

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