In the existing scenario whereby the literature on urban life in India has almost reduced urban neighbourhoods to abstract monolithic entities embodying human settlements, and the ecology thereof, to the utter neglect of the embeddedness of these settlements in different communitarian identities and categorical values, this book is a refreshing disjuncture from such dominant discursive trajectories, which seem to have emanated from post-industrial town-planning. It seeks to lay bare the ambiguities and paradoxes, the consonances and dissonances of urban lived experiences, which lend their influence upon creation and recreation of the urban neighbourhood over time. It highlights the liminal character of the Indian neighbourhood, which provides access to both the home as well as the city at the same time, while expounding as to how the very concept of home is being negotiated and renegotiated in the neighbourhood in so many terms. It emphasizes on the unique subjectivity and agency that each neighbourhood possesses, while problematizing every attempt to homogenize the idea of a pan-Indian urban neighbour-hood.
The multi- disciplinary conglomerate of articles reveals the intricate embeddedness of the urban Indian neighbour-hood, in religiosity and culture, apart from tracing the influences of caste, gender and class dimensions, almost challenging the Louis Wirthian polarity between urban and the rural/folk society, the ‘anonymity’, ‘impersonality’, ‘superficiality’ and ‘segmentality’ of urban relationships, to be replaced with an idea which is way more personal and communitarian in outlook. The outcome of this exercise, therefore, is a very theoretically rich and empirically grounded understanding of the phenomenon of urbanism and urbanity. The intertwining, interconnectedness, enmeshment of the social with the spatial, and the resultant chemistry that unfolds owing to the dialogue between these two supposed polarities, incessantly highlights the intricately reciprocal nature of the interactions between these two domains.
Not only do the chapters problematize the borrowed understanding of concepts that draw their reference from Euro-American trajectories, but some also even challenge the taken-for-grantedness of certain concepts, which have been doing the rounds in the discourse of urban sociology in India itself. This book thereby contests the conceptual blind spots and reveals how the urban neighbourhood is a mosaic of spatio-socio-cultural worlds, which can only be understood in all its instability and unevenness, since it is a ‘processual infrastructure’ and a mode of production in itself.