This major new post-colonial study addresses the questions of modernity and space that haunt our perceptions of Calcutta. It explores the politics of representation and the cultural changes that occurred in the city as its residents negotiated the idea of being 'modern'. Its dynamic range encompasses Asian Studies and History, Architecture and Urbanism The text responds to two inter-related concerns about the city. First is the image of Calcutta as the worst-case scenario of a Third World city -- the proverbial "city of dreadful nights". Second is the changing nature of the city's public spaces - the demise of certain forms of urban sociality that have been mourned in recent literature as the passing of Bengali modernity. Drawing on its post-colonial and spatial theory, it examines the city under British colonial rule as well as its later incarnations and explores issues such as gender, identity and nationalism. We begin with an analysis of the British attitudes that produced a dominant image of a problem-ridden city in the nineteenth century, and then proceed to explore other ways of envisioning it, emphasizing various modes of Bengali spatial imagination and practice.
The crafting of a nationalist identity was central to modern Bengali spatial imagination and was animated by the conflicting responses of Bengali residents to city life as they attempted to work out the ethics of their public and private selves in literature, art, residential design, and in the creation of new urban spaces. This new text problematizes the idea of representing the city - both colonialist and nationalist. It argues for models of urbanism, nationalism, and modernity that cannot be fathomed by neat renderings into black/white, spiritual/material, but must be understood in terms of strategic D ranslations D " between cultural and political domains. An essential and challenging new work from this leading author.
Swati Chattopadhyay is a Professor in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA. She is an architect and architectural historian, specializing in modern architecture and the cultural landscape of British colonialism.