The workshop intends to open up thinking about ‘walking’ by focusing on a closely tied object, that of the pavement/sidewalk/footpath. Recent civil society interventions aimed at ‘sustainable development’ have argued for the protection of pavements and the need to encourage walking in cities in the context rapid urban growth in developing countries like India. We find at the centre of this discourse someone who is recognizably a ‘citizen’.
The workshop asks what are the meanings of the ‘pavement’ for ‘non-citizens’ i.e., the large migrant population from villages & small towns who inhabit the city, for whom the sidewalk, pavement takes on a different significance. The pavement could be 1. dwelling places for the homeless or extensions of homes for the poor, 2. places to generate livelihood—production & trading (food, newspapers, jewelry). 3. a place for the cultural-political performance of cities (fairs, protests).
The state has responded variously to these different uses of the pavement. However, since the 90s with newer ideas of the 'citizen' who should inhabit the city, there is a slow evacuation of the 'non-citizen' from the city's imaginary & culture—evident in court judgements that see the squatter as 'illegal', in urban planning that focuses on fly-overs & high-speed ring roads. If pavement culture constitutes a city's culture, there is a danger of that culture disappearing with pavements being decreased in size or removed altogether. How does one address this disappearance? One of the possible ways the workshop will explore is through the reclamation of public spaces through cultural performances.
The session will involve going through a collection of photographs that showcases the different uses of the pavement, a recent court judgement on squatters. Participants can bring to the session related material, textual and visual, from their own contexts especially anything interesting about pavements.
Outcome of the workshop:
The specific case presented here about streets & pavements could enable a wider reflection on:
1. The different contexts/spaces we inhabit & the larger meanings about urban re-structuring today.
2. The need for cross-disciplinary work & equally a working together of academia & activists to address these issues of urban change.
3. Centrally, the need for ‘political intervention' through cultural performances in addressing problems of urban development. Here, it might be interesting to think about how we can re-claim public spaces (pavements) through cultural expression.
4. The need to nurture cultural expressions in a city to think culture as central to development. This argument is important in especially formulating advocacy on policy.
The last two issues have been concerns that are part of an academic-advocacy initiative that we at CIDASIA Research Programme, CSCS are a part of, along with "Maraa", an organisation that intervenes in urban environment and cultural policy in Bangalore. The initiative focuses on the need for action-research methodologies for policy intervention.
These are initial thoughts from my end and can willingly take different routes & directions with your inputs…