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Absent societies: Contouring urban citizenship in postcolonial Chennai.

Arabindoo, Pushpa Gowri (2008) Absent societies: Contouring urban citizenship in postcolonial Chennai. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis contours the dynamics of urban citizenship in a postcolonial city, against a cautionary note that such cities are undergoing a unique metamorphosis triggered by the national pursuit of neo-liberalisation policies. In an existing condition of sharply divided geographies, postcolonial cities, by becoming key portals to the flows of trans-nationalised capital, are being subject to a spatial reordering resulting in heightened forms of socio-economic inequality. Amidst a reduced terrain of common allegiances, neo-liberal citizenship rejects the ideal of commensurable citizens and is more conducive to a bourgeois ethic of right, which now defines the cityscape. In this regard, the research examines the construction of urban citizenship by Indian middle class homeowners in the southern metropolis of Chennai. Residents were interviewed on two main issues - their use of residents' associations as a means of collective action and their operation in the realm of civil society, and their adoption of a 'pristine' vocabulary in the re-imagination of the public spaces, mainly the beaches, in the city. Their responses are analysed against the state's pursuit of a new form of urban developmentalism to establish how they complement each other. This reveals that - oscillating between socio-political absenteeism and active citizenship - the political engagement of the Indian middle class is paradoxically through a process of 'depoliticisation'. While there is concern about the middle class's earlier practiced politics of indifference morphing into a politics of intolerance, this research finds that their bourgeois discourse of citizenship, hinging together the notion of propriety and property, comes across as weak and flawed, one that is exclusive but easily contested.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sociology, Social Structure and Development, South Asian Studies
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Geography and Environment

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