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The colonial city and the challenge of modernity : urban hegemonies and civic contestations in Bombay City, 1905-1925

By Sandip Hazareesingh


This thesis is a social history of Bombay city in the first quarter of the twentieth\ud century. It explores material changes in urban life consequent upon the impact of\ud modernity and the varied range of contestations of the colonial order which they\ud provoke.\ud The first chapter outlines the specific nature of colonial modernism and shows its\ud impact on the city's spatial forms and on its social relations. Representing a highly\ud selective, power-driven, and essentially technological manipulation of modernity, it\ud ensures distorted and differential outcomes within urban society. These conditions are\ud considerably aggravated by the sudden impact of the First World War, the subject of\ud the second chapter. The War increases material scarcities, worsens conditions of urban\ud life, widens disparities between rich and poor, and intensifies colonial repression.\ud At the same time, the crisis of war brings to the city the full potential of the\ud revolution in communications which carries a modem discourse of civic rights. In the\ud city, Homiman and sections of the bilingual urban intelligentsia rapidly vernacularize\ud this discourse and diffuse it into new social contexts. This is perceived by the local\ud colonial state as seriously threatening and subversive. The third chapter shows how\ud Gandhi's anti-modernist rejection of the city leads to his attempts to control, and in\ud some aspects reverse, this gathering urban momentum for an expansion in citizenship\ud rights.\ud The final chapter considers the new visions of urban citizenship expressed in the\ud agitation for an expansion of civil and democratic rights, and in labour protest\ud movements. This critical modernism looks to the future, rather than to the past, and acts\ud as a force to humanise the city, presenting an alternative and potentially more radical\ud challenge to the colonial state than the Gandhian movement

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