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Mr. Nidheesh Suresh

Indian Institute of Technology Madras, India

About the speaker

Mr. Nidheesh Suresh is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras Chennai. His doctoral research, via spatial analytics, offers an alternate account of the coastal urban as a fluid space with situated histories that complicate the binaries: land and sea, capitalist and subaltern, trawler, vessel and craft-based smaller vessels. His spatial analytics follow how fishers’ fluid practices and lifeways of fishing, worship, dwelling and navigating land and water in order to complicate simplistic assumptions of urbanization.

Presentation highlights

  • Why should we consider urban as an entangled category that goes beyond governmental definitions?
  • In what ways does urban politics in the global South contribute to this perspective?
  • Why do we have to locate the production and politics of urban ontologically and epistemologically?

Paper Abstract

Escaping urban: Situating the territorial contests over urban in coastal Kerala’s Alappad 

The Kerala government intends to revise the urban-rural boundaries in response to India’s Coastal Regulation Zone 2019 notification (CRZ). There are four major zones, in which CRZ II is the developed area that lies close to the coast in urban centers. Around 398 village panchayats will move to CRZ category II, providing infrastructure, building construction, and tourism development benefits. Alappad, a panchayat in south India’s Kerala coast, decided to vie for CRZ II. Though they meet the criteria to become urbanized by the government of India, Alappad is still in CRZ III. This has led to a territorial dispute between Alappad panchayat, karayogams (customary organizations),  rare earth mining companies under the government, and the Mata Amrit Anandamayi Math (faith-based organization). Mining companies oppose urban status, while others support it with agendas. Fundamentally, some groups use ‘escape’ to create the sense of ‘urban’ as an aspirational space.

Alappad is an exemplary site to give an insight into the politics of urban as a scheme and its entangled spatialities. Critical urban theories disrupt the cartographic logic that forms the basis of urban as a governmental category locating various material practices that constitute the urban. This research takes it further by examining the complex spatialities of urban as an ‘escape’ scheme. However, exploring these contestations brings to light the power dynamics that create an incomplete and uncertain process of urbanization,  making it an  ‘undecidable category’ (Roy, 2015).

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