Ian Mick Cook’s presentation of his work at the Manipal Centre for Philosophy & Humanities on the 4th was an occassion to review current approaches to the analysis of the urban. Arguing that a overzealous focus on space needs to revised in view of an analysis of time in looking at cities Ian drew from his work on Dalit flower sellers in Mangalore that provided for a fresh perspective. The focus on space in urban studies invites a certain type of language and discourse, and of course a certain set of professionals – architects, social geographers & development specialists to quote a few. It also invites attention to physicial and material realities, in which historical trajectories are encapsulated within spatial contexts. Dealing with space also lends little emphasis on people inhibiting these spaces, except in relation to use of space. A focus on time instead shifts focus to other hitherto unexplored avenues. Ian’s exploration of the rhythmic city, in which the city – is witness to the daily rhythms of various groups of people, the flower sellers included. Methodologically, it represents a much needed shift – a shift that can revitalise urban studies literature to look through a different lens – that of time.
What I really enjoyed were the images of the flower sellers, mobile, moving, from home to home, navigating lanes and accesses, moving both physically within the city, and literally moving beyond and yet within caste lines, the moving near and yet outside of people’s homes. Today as we debate Ambedkar and the student movements in India, these rhythms provide a unique insight to the ways in which caste continues to dominate, all the while being transformed in the process. Ian’s approach is fresh and inspiring as it livens the debate on cities!!!