In this talk the speakers will look at various aspects of the mental make up of a city. If space is apprehended physically as well as psychically, then what are the genres, cues, discourses and guidelines people use to make sense of the city? What does coming to the city mean? What does living in the city entail? And how does one inhabit the city?
Many of the original thinkers on urban studies have grappled with the question of what George Simmel termed “Metropolis and Mental Life”. Simmel, for example, considers urban life to be “blase”, superficial and alienating. Similarly the city in Indian nationalist literature and film fashions coming to urbanity as a loss of tradition, and a concomitant understanding of predatory capitalism. And contemporary urban studies is committed to the idea of city life as both consumption and spectacle as also violent and criminal.
Engaging with the many concerns of this long trajectory of urban affect, the speakers will examine people’s shifting emotional compass in relation to the city. Gouri Dange addresses the everyday struggle with finding some middle-ground between loving and leaving the city of Pune. Here, she draws upon her experiences writing about the city, as well as being a professional counsellor to various city dwellers. Mathangi Krishnamurthy references stories that emerged from Pune call centres to speak about workers’ complex engagement with the city in relation to their own desires and aspirations of romantic fulfillment. She asks “What’s love got to do with it?” and imagines the answer to implicate the city of Pune and indeed the notion of urbanity. Together the two speakers speak to distinct yet interrelated components of urban citizens’ lives in the city.
Gouri Dange is a writer, editor and family counsellor. She has had six works of fiction and non-fiction published over the last 5 years. She has edited over 200 books on varied subjects - cities, architecture, crafts, the environment, animal behaviour, Indian music, social movements - and is a columnist with national newspapers and magazines.
Mathangi Krishnamurthy is an anthropologist by training and teaches in the department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Madras. She has published on questions of service work, language training, and the anxieties of new capitalism in the Anthropology of Work Review and in a collection of essays entitled “Chutnefying English”.