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Proximate Distances: The Phenomenology of Density in Mumbai

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Abstract:

Urban density is often taken to be self-evident and treated as an indicator or attribute of urban space upon which urban planning and individual planning decisions are made. This article makes the case for thinking about density as a relational and social quality produced by identifiable associations, practices and systems of human interactions, specifically with infrastructural technologies. Based on ethnographic research in Mumbai, the paper will consider several different sites at which density operationalizes an incessant sense of temporariness and anticipation within the frame of social relations. These geographies of density yield surprising circumventions of functionality and planning but they also make possible transformation within existing frames of relations. Much of the recent urbanist literature on Mumbai focuses mainly on the slum not only as an empirical but also an analytic geography. Based on the ethnographic work on Mumbai, the article suggests other sites beside the slum for theorizations of the multitude. Doing so might yield new insights into the relationship between built form and urban design as well as accounts of the city that are not trapped either by normative and prescriptive models of the city or by the need to turn to a redemptive reading of chaos and misery.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2148/benv.33.2.227

Publication date: May 31, 2007

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  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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