Dwelling in Kolkata : spaces of difference, hybridity and migrancy

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2017
Thesis identifier
  • T14615
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 200650781
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • The themes of difference,migrancy,and cultural hybridity have been central to the formation of cities throughout the world.This has especially been the case in the history of colonial cities.As an archetypal colonial city formed through diverse waves of migration and cultural collision,and that grew to become the Second City of Empire,these themes have been central to the historical evolution of Kolkata. This makes it an ideal case study through which to examine how these themes impact upon the production of space and culture. Over the course of the city’s history, colonial, nationalist and postcolonial ideologies have shaped ideas about identity and difference as they relate to the wider socio-­‐political themes of race,class,culture and gender. These have determined social relationships between,and notions of cultural identity among the city’s diverse inhabitants,which in turn have defined urban morphologies of residence, typologies of domestic architecture and particular ways of inhabiting the city. One of the enduring assumptions about colonial cities is that colonial ideologies about difference have resulted in their division into racially segregated ‘white’ and ‘black’ towns. The dissertation examines this idea by charting the ways in which categories of difference have been manifest historically in the city’s urban morphologies, patterns of domestic space and modalities of dwelling. More crucially,it maps the various ways that this model has been transgressed and undermined, both socially and spatially, to produce more hybrid configurations of space. It also traces the diverse ways in which the forces of cultural hybridity and migration have shaped residential morphologies and the domestic architecture of a number of different ethnicities that historically inhabited the city. In addition,the study investigates how these themes have been explored in cultural representations about Kolkata. Methodologically, the analysis involved the study of historical maps,the identification and analysis of different ethno-­‐typologies of domestic space, and the study of diverse cultural representations of the city and its spaces.In relation to the latter it investigated both European and Bengali cultural texts in order to gain a cross-­‐cultural understanding of how the city and its spaces have been understood and experienced historically. Theoretically, the dissertation draws on theories relating to its major themes, particularly from postcolonial cultural theory, to aid in the interpretation of the city and its domestic architecture. In terms of findings, firstly the study found that ideologies about difference played a key role in the creation of the city’s urban and domestic spaces. In relation to the spatial expression of difference associated with the ‘dualcity’ model, it found the model to be both a valid and inadequate one to describe the city. It was valid because,despite numerous transgressions and exceptions, the colonial city was divided into white and black towns. On the other hand, the model was inadequate to the extent that it masked a greater socio-­‐cultural, ethnic and spatial complexity. Indeed, forces of modernization led to the gradual dissolution of these boundaries and the development of new forms of segregation. Secondly, it found that hybridity was an intrinsic quality of spaces in the colonial and postcolonial city, and thirdly that migration was a crucial force in the production of urban space, domestic architecture and modes of dwelling. These themes were expressed in a variety of ways that were specific to ethnicity,culture and historical period.
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