Theorizing Southern Cities

Author: Dr. Binti Singh

Though the forces of globalization, advanced capitalism and new modes of governance have subjected cities quite uniformly, the responses to these forces play out quite differently in varied empirical contexts. Within India itself, the responses of smaller towns and cities are quite different from that of megacities.

In a bid to capitalise on their difference and celebrate diversity, globally cities have deployed culture for revitalization, regeneration, branding and tourism. In India these responses became more pronounced in the changed context of 1990s with economic liberalization, satellite television and the Internet. Cities in India are gradually waking up to the importance of branding to attract much needed investments, the importance of culture therein and to capitalise on their place-based cultural identity.

In my latest book Culture, Place, Branding and Activism, I have discussed how these have played out in contemporary Lucknow whether as part of emergence of new spaces as symbolising city-specific culture like the Gomti riverfront, the resurgence of festivals, a thrust on tourism with the institutionalization of the Heritage Arc, or spatial practices like marathons, heritage walks, revival of theatre, street plays, numerous secular festivals around Lucknow’s cultural symbols like the Mango festival, Kabir festival, Lucknow Mahotsav, annual literature festival, revival of lost arts and crafts sometimes driven by citizens, at other times in partnership with city governments and corporate sponsorship.

New opportunities in television and films, the spread of theater, local literature and art through school curriculum, the proliferation of festivals celebrating local culture, the commodification and marketization of culture on a global scale are some of the ways in which place making has taken shape in contemporary Lucknow. Together the presence of multiple, diverse players and parallel trends discussed in this volume have helped resurrect the idea of place in contemporary Lucknow in the face of the homogenizing tendencies of cultural globalization.

Title of the Book: Lucknow: Culture, Place, Branding and Activism

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