Representing Calcutta: Modernity, Nationalism and the Colonial Uncanny, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Representing Calcutta

Modernity, Nationalism and the Colonial Uncanny, 1st Edition

By Swati Chattopadhyay


336 pages | 36 B/W Illus.

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Representing Calcutta is a spatial history of the colonial city, and addresses the question of modernity that haunts our perception of Calcutta. The book responds to two inter-related concerns about the city. First is the image of Calcutta as the worst case scenario of a Third World city -- the proverbial 'city of dreadful nights.' Second is the changing nature of the city’s public spaces -- the demise of certain forms of urban sociality that has been mourned in recent literature as the passing of Bengali modernity. By examining architecture, city plans, paintings, literature, and official reports through the lens of postcolonial, feminist, and spatial theory, the book explores the conditions of colonialism and anti-colonial nationalism that produced the city as a modern artefact. At the centre of this exploration resides the problem of 'representing' the city, representation understood as description and narration, as well as political representation. In doing so, Chattopadhyay questions the very idea of colonial cities as creations of the colonizers, and the model of colonial cities as dual cities, split in black and white areas, in favour of a more complicated view of the topography.


'The author ably juggles racial, gendered, moral, architectural, literary and artistic geographies to craft a highly innovative, scholarly and stylishly executed study … on a personal note, as the granddaughter of a suburban Calcutta architect I particularly welcome this book.' - Social & Cultural Geography

Table of Contents

Introduction: The City in Historical Imagination 1. The Colonial Uncanny 2. The Limits of "White" Town 3. Locating Mythic Selves 4. Telling Stories 5. Death in Public. Conclusion: The Politics of Representation

About the Author

Swati Chattopadhyay is a Professor in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA. She is an architect and architectural historian, specializing in modern architecture and the cultural landscape of British colonialism.

About the Series

Asia's Transformations/Asia's Great Cities

Each volume aims to capture the heartbeat of the contemporary city from multiple perspectives emblematic of the authors own deep familiarity with the distinctive faces of the city, its history, society, culture, politics and economics, and its evolving position in national, regional and global frameworks. While most volumes emphasise urban developments since the Second World War, some pay close attention to the legacy of the longue durée in shaping the contemporary. Thematic and comparative volumes address such themes as urbanization, economic and financial linkages, architecture and space, wealth and power, gendered relationships, planning and anarchy, and ethnographics in national and regional perspective.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Asia / India & South Asia
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / Urban