Dr. Nitin Bathla is an architect and researcher at ETH Zurich. His PhD is entitled ‘Delhi without borders’. Nitin regularly collaborates with film-makers, artist, and civil society organisations in order to bridge the research-activism divide.
Concomitant with India’s spectacular economic growth since the 1990s liberalisation reforms, the Indian countryside has witnessed exceedingly profound transformations as well. Departing at this spatio-historical conjuncture, this dissertation seeks to critically examine planetary entanglements within the ongoing urbanisation of agrarian land and commons in India through focusing on the transformations in the extended urban region of Delhi specifically. Employing a transductive and critical ethnographic approach, this research pieces together large-scale urban processes through bringing local frictions, and conflicts into a planetary perspective. Precisely, it attempts to locate the role of architecture and urban strategies in enabling global capital accumulation mediated through the production of cheap land, cheap labour, and cheap nature. Firstly, through following the transformation of existing agrarian villages into tenement towns through the planned exclusion of unprofitable infrastructures such as workers housing under extended urbanisation. Investigating in particular the role that such grey zones play in helping maintain a mobile surplus labour over an extensive urban fabric, necessary for low-cost global manufacturing. Secondly, this research follows the rapid rollout of economic and infrastructure corridors across India, which are emerging in bypass to the still unfinished land corridors. Locating precisely the role they play in differentially opening agrarian land and commons for enclosure and urbanisation through fabricating the preconditions for exercising the eminent domain. Thirdly, the study follows the production of an extended urban nature through the consolidation and simplification of ecological commons into nature protected areas. Following crucially the semantic construction of ecological commons as ‘wastelands’, which can then be operationalised for new cycles of value extraction through programs such as carbon trading schemes. Finally, it discusses alternative ecologies and practices of commoning in the unintended landscapes produced under extended urbanisation through following the adaptive strategies of transhumant pastoral itinerants. In these explorations, this dissertation journeys across multiple scales, and space times exploring how colonial and postcolonial traces are consecutively redeployed under extended urbanisation.