Yesterday, I gave a talk entitled, “Communicating Space: Framing space and urbanism in Bombay” at the South Asia Seminar Series at Emory University in Atlanta. The event was organized by Middle Eastern and South Asia Studies Program, and co-sponsored by the Program in Linguistics. Speaking to a group of scholars, academics and students interested in the many cultures and languages of South Asia, I focused attention on the city of Bombay and illustrated its multiple urbanisms through the lens of space and communication. Specifically, I situated the notion of communication in HL’s concept of “texture” and placed emphasis on both verbal and non-verbal communication as they relate to city’s spatial culture, spatial conditions, and spatial practices. I juxtaposed distinct material narratives on Bombay and discussed the many ways in which the textural relationship between space and communication reframed questions of voice and difference and spoke to multiple Bombays (Bombay, Bambai, and Mumbai including).
The talk was less about following a single line of thought to its logical conclusion, and more about presenting a diverse set of interconnected material on space and communication as a series of questions. Throughout, I employed the notion of texture as a framework to understand the relationship between space and society, but most importantly, to get past the view of space as either a neutral setting in which social processes take place, or some text whose reading might reveal the everyday social life. Intellectual stimulation aside, I was very happy to gain the support of an extremely encouraging and loving community at Emory. Sincere thanks to Ruby and Benny for inviting me to speak at their School.