AnnouncementInfrastructureMeeting

*CALL FOR PAPERS* Gendered Cultures and Climate Justice: Rethinking Smart Cities and Infrastructural Corridors in India, July 26-27, 2019, Pune University, India

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Jointly hosted by: University of East Anglia, UK, Savitribai Phule Pune University, People’s Resource Centre, India with UNESCO C2C For World Natural Heritage Management and Training in Asia Pacific Region, India. 

About the conference: It will focus on interactions between gendered cultures and climate justice in the context of development of smart cities and infrastructural corridors in India. We will probe into the knowledge politics that shape urban agendas and the role of urban financing, especially the aspiration for building ‘smart cities’, in shaping this knowledge politics. 

How cities are built and landscapes managed are a pressing need for India’s development, requiring transformational solutions. This is critical in context of ongoing material conditions of survival, marginalisation and inequalities as well as environmental/ climate crisis that is becoming acute. The biodiverse and disaster impacted regions where ecology, economy and existence interact to produce complex outcomes are also growing targets of urban infrastructure (including smart cities and infrastructural corridors). How do concepts such as ‘inclusive growth’, ‘sustainable development’, ‘smart cities’, ‘urban commons’ and ‘the just city’ relate to these concerns? Exploring the urban knowledge politics and larger picture of global capital finance, which often overlooks issues of exclusion and selective inclusion, this workshop will help us build knowledges and partnerships for addressing urgent research and developmental needs. 

We ask what do terms like “smart”, “urban,” “diversity,” “cultural pluralism,” and “infrastructure” actually mean in the context of gendered cultures and climate crisis. How may these be understood/ articulated differently in official discourse/ policy, and by those impacted by such initiatives? We aim to enhance our understanding of cities and infrastructural corridors as contested nexus points of social, spatial and political change. In doing so, we want to unpack and rethink how capital, power and privilege has shaped and is shaping the urban knowledge politics in historical, contemporary and speculative contexts. In particular, we will explore gendered knowledge and the potential of smart citizenship in the context of resilient cities and climate justice. 

At present, the diversity of interests and experiences on the ground are often ignored, we hope to bring together academics, activists, and practitioners especially women and indigenous scholars engaged with questions of sustainable cities and social justice. We will be focusing on ‘what is going on in different places?’ and ‘how can we conceptualise these developments?’ in order to collectively work towards more resilient and just futures. 

Potential Themes: We look for critical inquiries into the interpretations of urban knowledge politics, what it means for existing/potential interventions and its implications for both gender justice and climate justice. In particular, we are looking for contributions to the following thematic sessions: 

Theme 1. Knowledge Politics of ‘SMART’: 

We look for perspectives probing into the politics of knowledge manifested in the idea of SMART. What are the prevailing perceptions of SMART, shaped by what forces/ biases? What and whose notions of SMART have driven/ are driving the urban development both in terms of SMART cities and infra corridors? What notions are neglected or let off the grid? Rather than the binaries of modern or traditional, indigenous or external, we seek to examine the diversity of knowledges and hybrid ideas that characterise Indian cities. How far are these ideas/knowledges gendered, what social groups or identities do they represent? 

Theme 2. Knowledge Politics of ‘Diversity’ 

Here, we probe into the politics of knowledge manifested in the idea of diversity. How differences – social/cultural/economic/ecological – impact the making of Smart/Urban? What are the diverse needs, risks, expertise driving the urban development? What is let off the grid? To what extent these cities/corridors are “socially mixed & integrated urban areas” in their conceptualisation, and design? While Smart Cities/Corridors are being hailed as engines of growth, what ideas prevail in using and nurturing diversity in urban areas; what about the peripheral areas/communities? How do we make sense of the connections between diversity, innovation and sustainable living? Even if there is a wider consensus on the relevance of gender, caste, religion and other forms of diversity for just and resilient cities, the question of how to promote and sustain the growth of diversity remains. What are the synergies and tensions in governing diversity in smart cities and infra corridors? What are the administrative challenges? 

Theme 3. Knowledge Politics of ‘Nature’ 

What are the key environmental challenges that are driving urban transformations in India? Why? What are the issues that cities are facing today, including ways that climate change socially and economically impacts cities, and the interlinkages between these issues. Climate justice, gender, and land use changes are intricately linked. But, whose knowledge is going to count when it comes to understanding how we value nature and to what ends? Cities are also causing disintegration of existing villages and societies cutting through them socio-cultural and ecological breakdowns. We need to critically look at what is planned (on the public policy-side) for the “integration” or incorporation of villages that will fall under the industrial corridors perimeter. Existing examples of the consequences include: destruction of economic clusters of villages, geographies of settlements = split in half, gendered impacts on employment and labour, panchayat composition, change of administrative status etc. We ask — Do we have a support system ready to absorb the shocks of drastic change in lifestyle, breakdown of community and livelihoods? 

Theme 4. Knowledge Production and Politics around Financing Infrastructure 

How do infrastructure corridors complement or challenge our conventional concepts of cities? Urban-rural/ peripheral relations? How does knowledge politics shape and is being shaped by financing of the urban infrastructure (incl. smart city and corridors)? Is finance driving the knowledge politics or knowledge politics driving the financing? We look for informed views that help in understanding finance in the broader context of urban infrastructure and sustainable development financing needs. What opportunities can be harnessed through climate finance, what are the pitfalls? On the branding of these projects, which are international urban products: where does the inspiration come from? Which “model” of countries or cities? What are the source of influence and how these ideas have spread among politicians, civil servants, planners and all. We try to unpack the actors in the realm of finance both at the national and international level who are involved in actualising the urban agenda.We seek to deconstruct the prevailing narrative by looking at international experiences (that helps to convince both public authorities and inhabitants) and ground realities. We ask — How “indigenous” are these projects then? 

Theme 5. Implications of Urban Knowledge Politics on Gender Justice and Climate Justice 

Here, we probe into community responses to the uni-centric knowledge with respect to initiatives related to SMARTness. Industrial corridors that provide a link across territories as well as introduce distinctions between them. The logic of industrial corridors is that they enable the mobility of resources, provide new markets, enhance employment and employability and are a move towards dismantling traditional hierarchies. This seems to be the logic of planners and policy makers. What community logic/logics complement or counter it? We look into the varied implications of smart cities and infra corridors in relation to (In)justices, (in)equalities, ecological (un)sustainability. Changing the lens: we would also explore consequences of areas excluded? What impacts on territories, states that are left out of these projects: new inequalities developed, construction of a dual system: rich, developed, invested territories, and those marginalised, “empty”? If and how do these consequences reconfigure gender relations? How these consequences enable or disable opportunities for civic engagement for climate justice? 

Theme 6. Intervening in the Urban Knowledge Politics 

What is the way forward to intervene in the knowledge politics shaping urban development? Given that there are multiple publics, multiple discourses/knowledges, and deep seated gendered inequalities, what strategies can help identify which knowledge and who’s knowledge might provide better outcomes? How to dismantle the prevailing knowledge hierarchies, create civic action spaces to engage, and come out with alternative, informing urban planning and governance? We will discuss collaborative strategies to rebuild, engage — through research, trainings, policy, and activism. 

Expectations: By bringing together a diverse group into a meaning-making process, we hope to build better understanding, empathy, and lasting connections/collaborations. You can help make this dialogue more inclusive by offering to act as peer-interpreters or proposing participations/creative interruptions in diverse forms– exhibitions, posters, poetry, plays, guided-trails etc. A website will be designed to carry forward the ‘afterlife’ of the conference. A book compiling the perspectives is quite likely. 

Venue and Support: The outstation delegates will be supported by travel grant and accommodation on campus at Pune University. Our grant is limited, and we very much look forward to any support towards maximising the participation. 

Contact: If you are interested in contributing to any thematic session, please send your abstract/concept (250 words max) and brief bio (200 words max) to us no later than 30 June 2019. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have queries, or an alternative proposal for your participation. 

Dr Shalini Sharma, Fulbright Fellow, Princeton University Email: shalinis@princeton.edu 

Prof. Ravindra Jaybhaye, Head, Geography Department, Savitribai Phule Pune University Email: jaybhayerg@gmail.com 

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