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

Representing Calcutta

Modernity, Nationalism and the Colonial Uncanny, 1st Edition

By Swati Chattopadhyay


336 pages

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Representing Calcutta: Modernity, Nationalism, and the Colonial Uncanny is a spatial history of colonial Calcutta, addressing the question of modernity that haunts our perception of Calcutta. The book responds to two interrelated concerns about the city. The first is the image of Calcutta as the worst case scenario of a Third World city - the proverbial "city of dreadful nights." The second is the changing nature of the city’s public spaces - the demise of certain forms of urban sociality that have been mourned in recent literature as the passing of Bengali modernity.

This book explores the history of the city, focusing in particular on its emergence from colonialism into postcolonial modernity. Drawing on postcolonial and spatial theory, the author analyzes the city under British colonial rule and in its later incarnations, and also examines such issues as gender, identity, and nationalism. It is a an essential text for scholars with an interest in colonialism, South Asia, and urban development.


'Representing Calcutta provides a new and exciting look into the burgeoning capital of the Raj in the early nineteenth century. Chattopadhyay powerfully weaves together architecture, space, and culture to describe a city of 'blurred boundaries', in which British and Bengali each play a part in the creation of a distinctively colonial culture. From the layout of the bungalow to the ideas of Bengali reformers, Chattopadhyay gives us a living Calcutta in place of the usual stereotypes derived from Kipling and contemporary image-making' - Thomas R. Metcalf, Professor of History Emeritus, University of California, Berkley

'Representing Calcutta offers a wide ranging and fluent interpretation of the literature, art, and urban landscape of the colonial city that uses each to illuminate and sometimes to undercut the others. Chattopadhyay's great talent is to lay out large issues in concrete ways, creating a vivid and memorable portrait of colonial Calcutta's life and landscape and offering a fresh perspective on one of the world's great cities.' - Dell Upton, School of Architecture, University of Virginia

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:
ARCHITECTURE / History / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General