Neighbourhoods and Neighbourliness in Urban South Asia: The Case of Kolkata’s ‘Para-s’ | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


Western urban theory has traditionally viewed neighbourhoods as historical or administrative conveniences that functioned to organize civic life of communities in urban space. However, little attention has been paid to the diverse forms of sociability that emerge and thrive within these spaces. Even in the cities of the Global South, neighbourhood patterns have been sought to be explained predominantly through the twin lens of social inequality and spatial segregation. As such, the affective potential of the neighbourhood has remained relatively unexplored. By focusing on everyday life in the para-s (traditional neighbourhoods) of Kolkata, this paper draws attention to the ways in which these socio-spatial units display agency of their own, actively shaping urban identities and urban dwellers’ relationship to the city. The paper argues that institutions and practices characteristic of para-based socialities allows for such processes. The paper surmises that para life offers new insights towards understanding the everyday inhabitation of the urban in these contexts, processes which otherwise lie in the interstices of mainstream urban theory.


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