Dissertation Abstracts

Protests and Urban Restructuring in The City of Kolkata: A Study

Author: Tahmin Fatma Barkati, tahmin.fatma@gmail.com
Department: School of Social Work
University: Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India
Supervisor: Prof. Manish K. Jha
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Protests , Urban Restructuring , Spatiality
Areas of Research: Social Movements, Collective Action and Social Change , Social Classes and Social Movements , Women in Society


This research looks into the spatiality of protest, and how the restructuring of the city space hinders and reflexively modifies the medium and characteristics of protest. It identifies and throws light on the reasons which have changed the socio-economic and political structure of protest in Kolkata. It explores the socio-spatial-cultural dynamics of protest and analyses its relation with the Bengali new middle class. Theoretically, this paper explores the classical Marxian concepts by examining the empirical relevance of the theories. At a methodological level, a historical-comparative inquiry shall be utilised to analyse the structural and cultural changes in the tactics and strategies of protest in the last two decades due to the emergence of a new middle class and their influence on the production of space. In the last decades, a sort of urban renaissance has occupied cities across the globe. Globalisation, privatisation, and neo-liberal policies have altered the characteristics and virtues of both the city and the middle-class population. With the changing structure of the city, a new “consumerist” class has also emerged who have imbibed a modern and globalised lifestyle, profession, and political ideologies as well as a virtual way of voicing their dissent. Common public spaces are disappearing in their physical sense since they are increasingly turned into commercial, corporate spaces dedicated to consumption and production. The shrinkage of the city space is a testimony of the dominance of a certain class and their new lifestyle, and the restructuring of the urban space is driven by political power backed by the private endorsements of capitalist groups that have forced it to lose its true essence. Kolkata is undergoing a similar phase of beautification, still trying to match up with the pace of global consumerism. The city has been witnessing a boom in real estate, and drastic architectural initiatives, from flyovers to open parks, and a new generation of the middle class have altered the image of the cityscape. The city walls, streets, lanes, neighbourhood parks, and city spaces which once used to be the open canvas for the artistic and aesthetic expression of dissent are disappearing. Due to these changes and the restructuring of the space, the sudden uprisings around the city have come under control. Currently, while the Western world is witnessing waves of protest and occupy movements in which thousands of people are showing collective solidarity by reclaiming the streets, demonstrating publicly, and interrupting the everyday life of citizens by using the physical space, it seems the culture of protest in Kolkata is on a retreat.