Postcolonial urban futures: Imagining and governing India’s smart urban age

This paper examines the ‘future’ as a blueprint for social power relations in postcolonial urbanism. It addresses a crucial gap in the rich scholarship on postcolonial urbanism that has largely ignored the ‘centrality of time’ (Chakrabarty, 2000) in the politics and speed of urban transformations. This paper takes postcolonial urbanism as a ‘colonisation of/with time’ (Adam, 2004) that reaches across spaces, scales and times of the past, present and future to produce cities as spatio-temporal entities. Using the lens of ‘futuring’ (Urry, 2016) as a practice of imagining and governing cities through speed, this paper analyses India’s national 100 Smart Cities Mission through a set of popular myths that create a dialectic relation between past and future. It suggests that smart cities in India are marked by the deployment of two parallel mythologies of speed – nationhood and technology. While the former refers to a mythical moral state, the latter refers to transparent and accountable governance in order to produce smart cities in the image of the moral state. The paper concludes that while postcolonial future time is imagined at the scale of the smart city, there is a simultaneous recalibration of its governance at the scale of the nation.

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Volume 37 Issue 3

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