Pas­cal Kal­len­ber­ger

This doc­to­ral rese­arch aims to achie­ve two spe­ci­fic tasks: First it intends to descri­be the con­tem­pora­ry urban con­di­ti­on of Kolka­ta — the least rese­ar­ched Indian mega-city -, on an over­ar­ching level, by app­ly­ing a spe­ci­fi­cal­ly desi­gned ana­ly­ti­cal approach of pat­terns and pathways. Kolka­ta con­sti­tu­tes a metro­po­li­tan city regi­on with over 18 mil­li­on inha­bi­tants and is by far the poo­rest and least deve­lo­ped urban mega-regi­on in India. Second this the­sis cen­tres on Howrah, which rep­res­ents a mar­gi­na­li­zed, depri­ved and often over­loo­ked ‘West­side’ of this mega-city, whe­re almost no rese­arch has been con­duc­ted so far. Howrah, being admi­nis­tra­tively an inde­pen­dent city of at least three mil­li­on peop­le, has been under­go­ing important urban trans­for­ma­ti­on despi­te, or rather becau­se it has always been at the frin­ge of the city, phy­si­cal­ly as well as in public per­cep­ti­on, in con­trast to its actu­al high geo­gra­phi­cal cen­tra­li­ty. More than 60% of its popu­la­ti­on are dwel­ling in slums.  

More spe­ci­fi­cal­ly this the­sis will descri­be and ana­ly­se the urban trans­for­ma­ti­on that is going on in Pilkha­na, a par­ti­cu­lar­ly rapidly trans­forming area wit­hin Howrah. This area is loca­ted right next to the very city cent­re of Howrah, a for­mer shan­ty­town in ver­ti­cal trans­for­ma­ti­on, whe­re still slum-like con­di­ti­ons exist. The term ‘ver­ti­cal slum’ is coined and used for a very recent deve­lop­ment of mul­ti-storey, self-built brick buil­dings repla­cing for­mer squat­ter sett­le­ments.

Theo­re­ti­cal­ly a mul­ti­tu­de of dif­fe­rent approa­ches from the field of deve­lop­ment stu­dies, plan­ning theo­ry, pover­ty rese­arch and urban stu­dies will be app­lied. A Dooy­e­weerd-based approach will be used as an over­ar­ching frame­work to bring the dif­fe­rent approa­ches tog­e­ther. Fur­ther the­re will be a rigo­urs dis­cus­sion and cri­tic of the term slum. Having its ori­gin in the Vic­to­ri­an peri­od of England’s under­class sett­le­ments known for their very poor hygie­nic and living con­di­ti­ons, the mea­ning of the term varies nowa­days from con­ti­nent to con­ti­nent and even from coun­try to coun­try. Many scho­l­ars have gone so far as to aban­don the term slum com­ple­te­ly, as it has lost its ori­gi­nal mea­ning and con­no­ta­ti­on. Nevertheless the term slum is inte­gral part of the Indian urban dis­cour­se and will the­re­fo­re be used to con­nect with the on-going deba­te on urban pover­ty and infor­mal sett­le­ments.    

The doc­to­ral rese­arch first aims to descri­be and ana­ly­se the wider con­text of Kolkata’s urba­ni­sa­ti­on pro­ces­ses through ade­qua­te his­to­ri­cal and spa­ti­al ana­ly­sis. It fur­ther intends to pro­du­ce several maps, that will allow a bet­ter under­stan­ding of Kolkata’s urban con­di­ti­on fol­lo­wing the method that has been deve­lop at the chair of pro­fes­sor Schmid at the ETHZ. The main aim of this the­sis is, howe­ver, to ans­wer a mul­ti­tu­de of ques­ti­on con­cer­ning the trans­for­ma­ti­on pro­ces­ses that are cur­r­ent­ly taking place in Howrah: What trig­ge­red the rapid urban trans­for­ma­ti­on from a for­mer slum area into an urban deve­lop­ment side with mul­ti-storey, self-built brick buil­dings seen as a ‘ver­ti­cal slums’? What are the con­se­quen­ces for the living con­di­ti­ons of local resi­dents? Do we actual­ly see a new form of gen­tri­fi­ca­ti­on or urban upgra­ding? What is hap­pe­ning to the for­mer ten­ants? What are the forces/actors behind this trans­for­ma­ti­on? Who is losing and who is gai­ning from this pro­cess? How do the local eco­no­mic, poli­ti­cal, soci­al and reli­gious situa­ti­ons con­tri­bu­te to the­se urba­ni­sa­ti­on pro­ces­ses? A Dooy­e­weerd-based approach will be used to start ans­we­ring tho­se ques­ti­ons.

Fur­ther this the­sis aims to cri­ti­cal­ly dis­cuss the term slum, how and if it real­ly app­lies to the given situa­ti­on of infor­mal sett­le­ment in Howrah.   

Final­ly, despi­te the widespread pover­ty in Howrah, it will be argued that cities should be seen as part of the solu­ti­on and not as pro­blem in the strugg­le to over­co­me pover­ty. Cities and par­ti­cu­lar­ly the pro­cess of urba­ni­sa­ti­on are still con­si­de­red by many Indian obser­vers as the main pro­blem, and the major focus of deve­lop­ment aid is still on rural pover­ty. Howrah is, howe­ver, seen as a ‘nor­mal’ con­tem­pora­ry Indian city, and by no means unders­tood as a patho­lo­gi­cal phe­no­me­non, or as an urban ano­ma­ly.

Start: August 2010 

Co-Super­vi­sor: Prof. Dr. Sai­bal Kar