What does it mean to inhabit a city propelled by real estate and yet live amidst wetness? Dr. Lalitha Kamath explores this question through the experiences of Mumbai’s indigenous fishing community, the Kolis who simultaneously inhabit two cities, two Mumbais, that are entangled in dynamic tension. The first city is of indigenous knowledge and lived experience of Mumbai and of the sea that comes from living according to the rhythm of rising and falling water levels. This relation with sea and land transcends the fixity and claims of propertied ownership. The second city emerges from the Koli’s encounters with the real-estate, propertied city, one driven by the imperatives of capitalism.
Today, the city of the sea seems set to be consumed by the city of real estate: a story told through fisher experiences of infrastructure projects that capture the sea and coasts, and embodied understandings of toxicity, surveillance and catches of garbage. The fishers’ slow estrangement from the sea is, however, marked by struggle. In a time of rising waters, Koli resistance may provide new idioms to understand struggles for justice and how we may reimagine the fundamental relationships with which habitation is being (un)made.
This lecture by Dr. Lalitha Kamath is co-sponsored by the South Asia Faculty Working Group, the Carolina Asia Center, and the Department of City and Regional Planning.
Zoom link to join: https://go.unc.edu/poverty-inequality
is an urbanist who teaches at the School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Trained as an urban planner, her first book was a co-edited volume that focused on a critical exploration of emerging discourses and practices of “citizen participation” that have become part of urban governance reforms and infrastructure projects in India. Subsequent work has focused both on the violence of property urbanism in the global south and its dispossession on racial, ethnic, class, and gender lines, but also the bottom-up agency of marginalized groups in unsettling dominant urbanisms. As part of this work, she is engaged in ethnographic study of an indigenous fishing community on Mumbai’s east coast to understand changing conceptions of habitation and value at the water’s edge.