The city has long been a key site of inquiry for social scientists across disciplines. Much of the research produced in the field of urban studies has been centered on Europe and North America and has viewed urbanisation within the wider context of modernisation. However, a dramatic transformation is taking place within regions across the Global South and in South Asia in particular where, despite the presence of several of the world’s mega-cities, the process of urbanisation is in many ways just beginning to be explored. Not only are older cities expanding and evolving; there is also a rapid increase in small and medium-sized cities along with the development of new urban forms such as ‘urban corridors’ along with attempts to adopt the ‘world class’ and ‘smart’ city as models of development.

The expansion of neoliberal forms of accumulation and the growing flows of goods, ideas, and human beings between and within global networks is having profound effects on the urban experience in South Asia, creating new possibilities as well as challenges, particularly for marginalised citizens. While power-holders struggle to create ‘world-class’ and ‘smart’ cities in order to attract capital, the vast majority of urban inhabitants experience multiple forms of insecurity. For those surviving on the margins, the city is both a site of promise as well as precarity. There is an urgent need for scholars of South Asia to reflect on the impacts of these profound changes on the lives of citizens and on our understanding of processes of urbanisation in general.

This conference aims to explore more closely the lived experience of urbanism, or what Simone (2010) refers to as ‘cityness’, in South Asia and its diaspora. It approaches the city as a site of multiple contestations and contradictions and aims to highlight struggles over space, resources, identities, and meaning taking place within South Asian cities. We welcome proposals from disciplines across the social sciences and humanities exploring narratives of the city both past and present across South Asia. Papers dealing with cities outside of South Asia or on South Asian diaspora communities are also welcome. Possible themes may include:

  • Resource politics and the city
  • Privatization, enclosures and the disappearance of the urban commons
  • The ‘world class/smart city’ and its exclusions
  • Migration/transnationalism and the city
  • Silenced/alternative urban histories
  • Insecurity/conflict/violence and the city
  • Gendered urban spaces
  • Right to the city movements
  • Cosmopolitanism and the city
  • Writing the South Asian city

Please send abstracts of up to 350 words. Journalists, graduate students, artists, and activists are strongly encouraged to participate.

Contact Info: Convener: Dr Nida Kirmani (nida.kirmani[at]