City in Public Culture – DRONAH


The contested and negotiated realm of Public Culture in Indian cities often fluctuates between the physical and the virtual resulting in myriad urban cultural formations. While it is accepted that increasing globalisation in Indian cities has pushed this debate forward, Public Culture at large remains inclusive of cultural understandings and exchanges at the local, regional, national and transnational levels.

This theme seeks to address the multi-sited and polyphonous articulations of public culture that have been spawned by the Indian city. Issues/sub themes that will be explored include: cultural identity in local vs global framework; cultural processes in contemporary city planning; the cosmopolitanism of India’s cities; ‘provincialisation’ of urban space by migrants; indigenous settlements; ­­cultures, celebrations and languages of ‘the street’; role of creative industries;  museums and exhibitions; social cohesion, new media and contemporary cultural practices; art and the body politic; the artist as visionary/witness/historian/planner, etc. This theme therefore addresses the cultural quotient that accompanies the formations of publics and public spheres within Indian cities.


Plenary 1:Culture and Media

Collective culture of a city is expressed and experienced through festivals, food, fairs, celebrations, arts, crafts, traditions and events; and communicated through media in the form of films, photography, television, audio, print media, virtual media etc. This session will inquire into a range of aspects related to public culture and media including issues associated with social change, cultural identity and cultural formations with new media practices. The role of media in reflection and creation of public culture of a city could be analysed in tangible form through study of the impact on the local communities and their cultural continuity or even through new cultural formations by migrants. How do we assess and quantify this impact? What is the role of media and cultural constructions and reconstructions of a city? Indian cities are under utilising the power of public art. Who initialises, funds, supports and sustains it?


Plenary 2: Culture and Development

Though a city’s growth and development in often presented as a statistical statement, it is inextricably linked to aspects of cultural identity and cultural solidarity. For sustainable development of the city, it is important to retain its culture identity within an evolving framework of creative benchmarks in contemporary contexts. This session will specifically inquire into Creative Industries as a source of economic growth, this sector that ‘lies at the crossroads between the arts, business and technology’ ( is a strong means of keeping alive the traditional and generating new meanings in the cultural reconstructions of a city. Within this framework, the session will specifically touch upon the role of the traditional crafts sector as livelihood generators in Indian cities.


Plenary 3: Culture in City Planning

Contemporary urban planning often intends to integrate existing indigenous cultural planning systems with modern frameworks; together, the historic and modern are thus seen to create an identity for the city. However, Indian cities have a wealth of indigenous cultural resources that have been, in the context of the conventional planning systems, isolated rather than integrated. New approaches, therefore, need to understand the underlying sustainable systems and relationships inherent in historic cores and existing planning. Additionally, there is a need to understand the cultural restructuring of urban interventions such as slums, migrant settlements and indigenous crafts villages in the context of city planning. Mapping of significant heritage resources and integration of cultural processes in enabling formulation and enactment of legislation for safeguarding heritage are few essential urban tools to integrate cultural components in contemporary planning. This requires participatory planning with the communities, anchoring the intangibles in tangible planning modules and challenges in qualifying and quantifying these cultural values vis a vis land development and economics. This session will cover indigenous/regional, national and international approaches to culture based planning including the recent UNESCO initiative of Historic Urban Landscape (HUL).


Making Three Ends Meet (file size:4.90 mb)


Deep Dive 1: Culture/Heritage based Planning

The culturally inclusive approach towards city planning is professed and preached. Recent UNESCO initiative of HUL too advocates a similar approach. But how does it actually work on the ground in the Indian context? This subtheme will be discussed in two sequential Deep Dive Sessions of 1 hr 20 min each

1a) Integrating Cultural Resources in Planning: Culture and Heritage are urban components that often get marginalised in city planning. Can heritage professionals respond to the challenge of integrating heritage with mainstream planning and conversely, how do city planners do justice to heritage issues in the face of so many other, seemingly more pressing concerns like housing, transportation and environmental management? To what extent do the existing legislative tools support culture/heritage based planning? How does one plan for current modern day needs within an existing historic cultural context? Can indigenous and cultural planning norms inform contemporary Master Plans in any manner? Should new city expansions have any association with cultural identity of the city? This session aims to address these questions by presenting and discussing on ground practices and experiences of the speakers and the discussants.

Critical Questions:

  • Are policymakers, planners and practitioners geared for culturally inclusive planning? Do they understand the cultural mapping requirements as a prerequisite for such an exercise?
  • What role does the community (the people, the public) play in determining what is historically, socially, culturally significant to be conserved/maintained/used face of 'new development'?
  • Considering the cultural dynamics of Indian cities, is it not more feasible to establish processes and methodologies for culture based planning as opposed to demonstrative and measurable projects for other sectors?

1b) Facing cross-sectoral challenges, achieving cultural inclusiveness: While Culture is accepted as a cross sectoral urban issue, most urban sectors including planning, landuse, infrastructure are at a loss to quantify, understand or plan for this important cross sectoral intervention in any manner. Thus despite being a cross cutting theme, culture remains a nonexistent entity in most sectoral approaches. Is it possible to evolve a shared identity through participative processes while addressing heritage in a cross-sectoral scenario? How do we ensure that these efforts do not address the ideas (memory/culture/identity) of a few and are truly inclusive?

Critical Questions:

  • Do policymakers, planners and practitioners understand the cross sectoral issues in culturally inclusive planning?
  • Is the community (the people, the public) engaged in assessing, determining and accepting the impact of cross cutting aspects of culture in development?

Deep Dive 2: Creative Industries and Development

Creative industries are significant contributors to the economic growth of a city and generate substantial opportunities for employment. As avenues of creative expression, these not only help in achieving profitability but also encourage communal diversity and advancement. How do we measure the impact of creative industries on the growth and development of our cities? Through this session, we will cover various facets that assess the role of creative industries in urban development.

Critical Questions:

  • How should India position its Culture and Creative Industries in the increasing urban context?
  • What is the role of Creative Industries in empowering local communities?

Deep Dive 3: Cultural Economics and Poverty Alleviation

The heritage resources of a city whether as tangible public heritage or indigenous craft settlements are often important sources of livelihood and empowerment of communities. These are socio-culturally and economically valued components of the city that are often marginalised in modern development. A number of initiatives by governmental and non-governmental organisations have resulted in revitalising such historic areas, traditional settlements and communities that have subsequently impacted urban economy in the long run. Is there a possibility of replicating such models nationwide with direct impact on GDPs? What is the economic value of tangible and intangible cultural resources? The session will focus on economic and livelihood concerns revolving around cultural components such as public heritage, local crafts, historic cores and indigenous settlements.

Critical Questions:

  • What is the role of culture and heritage in urban poverty alleviation?
  • How do we determine the economic sustainability of our cultural heritage?
  • Is it possible to equate the economic value of cultural resources with more tangible urban deliverables such as services and infrastructure?