Sites of Reading and Writing: The City in/& Literary Production

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2LA2064

Semester and Year Offered: Summer

Course Coordinator and Team: Anita E. Cherian

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Course Objectives/Description:

This course is concerned with two entities, the reader and the writer, and two activities, reading and writing, and their emplacement within the city. It will think about how we read and write the city. Given the vastness and the density of the subject, the course will eschew comprehensiveness for a judicious selection of questions and texts to be dealt with. A fundamental concern is the relationship between the city and the reader/writer, and in particular, how a city such as [New] Delhi figures in the reader/writer’s consciousness.

This course is conceptualized as a reading and writing workshop where we will work through the assigned readings, and, our own writing. The course will require students to write in situated ways about their experience of the city. The prescribed readings are intended to serve both as exemplars and as heralds of possibility. The course demands consistent student presence and absenteeism will not be tolerated. Students are expected to be attentive to the varied techniques of writing the city. These texts are intended to direct attention to the many optics through which the city can be experienced and studied.

The course comprises an introduction and four intersecting thematic modules

  • Introduction
  • Ways of being in and experiencing the city
  • Space
  • Time
  • Movement and Mobility

Course Outcomes: On completion of the course, it is expected that the student will have:

  • Developed the ability to understand the ethical and political questions raised by a deep engagement with the city.
  • Developed enhanced sensitivity to the economic, social and cultural diversity of the inhabitants of the city.
  • Developed the ability and confidence to outline forms of self-directed learning and create research agendas.
  • Gained an understanding of the various theoretical and historical modes of engagement with the urban in general, and the city of Delhi in particular.
  • Gained the confidence and the sensitivity to step outside the classroom in order to engage with urban spaces and with the micro politics of urban life.
  • Developed the skills to read and write in situated ways about embodied life in urban space.
  • Developed the patience and the consideration to learn more actively from each other through processes of deep listening, reading, experience and conversation.

Module based descriptions and readings:

1. Introduction: this segment introduces students to the course’s core concerns and methodologies. The module discusses a variety of readings that engage with the contemporary city.

Readings: selections from the following:

The Cities of Everyday Life: Sarai Reader 02. New Delhi, Amsterdam: The Director, Center for the Study of Developing Societies, 2002.

Rana Dasgupta. Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-first Century Delhi. Delhi: Harper Collins, 2014.

2. Ways of being in/ experiencing the city: this module presents materials that consider the diverse ways in which urban subjects experience the city. Methodologically, the readings move fluidly between the experiential and the analytic.

Readings: selections from the following:

Aman Sethi. A Free Man: A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi. London: Jonathan Cape, 2012.

Georg Simmel. “The Metropolis and Mental Life,” pp.1-9.

Mayank Austen Sufi. No One Could Love You More. Delhi: Penguin Books, 2012. Also his blog, The Delhi Wallah,

Shilpa Phadke. “Unfriendly Bodies, Hostile Cities: Reflections on Loitering and Gendered Public Space,” Economic and Political Weekly. (Vol. xlviii: No. 39). September 28, 2013, pp. 50-59.

Walter Benjamin. “ Baudelaire” & “Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth

Century,” in The Writer of Modern Life: Essays on Charles Baudelaire. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006.

3.Space: this module engages with the philosophy, politics, materiality and dynamics of space.

Readings: selections from the following:

Henri Lefebvre. The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1991.

Rana Dasgupta. Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-first Century Delhi. Delhi: Harper Collins, 2014. Setha Low. “An Engaged Anthropological Approach to Space and Place” (2014) in Jen Jack Geiseking and William Mangold etal ed. The People, Place and Space Reader. New York: Routledge, 2014.

Stephen Legg. Spaces of Colonialism: Delhi’s Urban Governmentalities. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing, 2007.

Walter Benjamin. The Arcades Project. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 1999.

4. Time: this module deals with ideas of time and historicity in relation to the city. The module gives students a conceptual and historical lens through which Delhi’s past can be thought through.

Readings: selections from the following

Mahmood Farooqui. Besieged: Voices from Delhi 1857. New Delhi: Viking, 2010.

Saskia Sassen. “The city” Its return as a lens for social theory,” in City, Culture and Society 1(2010): pp. 3-11.

Sunil Kumar. “The Pir’s Barakat and the Servitor’s Ardour”, in Mala Dayal ed. Celebrating Delhi. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2010, pp. 47-75.

Dalrymple. The City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi. Delhi: Penguin. 1993.

5. Movement and Mobility: this module looks at movement in the city in terms of the conditions and constraints under which citizens and subjects move through urban space.

Readings: selections from the following

  • Gautam Bhan. In the Public’s Interest: Evictions, Citizenship and Inequality in Contemporary Delhi. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2016.
  • Hagar Kotef. ‘Movement,’ Political Concepts: A Critical Lexicon.
  • Iain Sinclair. Lights out for the territory. London: Penguin, 1997.
  • Rashmi Sadana. ‘On the Delhi Metro: An Ethnographic View,’ EPW (Vol. XLV: No. 10), November 13, 2010.
  • Sam Miller. Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity. Delhi: Penguin Books, 2008.

Instructional design and evaluation: reading, writing and discussion, field trips to sites in Delhi which are of significance to the student. Each student is required to engage deeply with a particular site that then becomes a site of presentation to the cohort and the subject of the term paper.

Assessment structure and schedule: Besides a component for presence and participation, the course will have three assessment situations, a presentation of either the elaboration of a concept, or the introduction of a particular urban space, via a fieldtrip, a response paper which engages with any two readings and a final term-paper.

Class Presence and participation: 20% (this includes physical presence in class, engagement with reading, willingness to write and discuss one’s writing).

  • Presentation: 25%
  • Response Paper: 25%
  • Term Paper: 30%

Readings: See above