The article relates Walter Benjamin's insights on history and eternal return to modern spaces in colonial and postcolonial Calcutta/Kolkata. Playing on the renaming of the city, the article argues that contemporary social spaces of urban development associated with "Kolkata" return through 18th and 19th century colonial consumption imperatives to dreams once heralded as Calcutta's fabled "City of Palaces." Today's new developments, which claim to bring a "new world" to postcolonial Kolkata, not surprisingly, return historical commodity logics. Spatial multiplicities of contemporary Kolkata/Calcutta reveal, immanent within the claim to the modern, returned social spaces of consumptive repetition, what Benjamin called "the ever-selfsame." As such, they evidence the dream sleep of modernity-"the newest remaining the same in all its parts"-rather than a continuity of temporal succession, "ages ending and the new stepping out from the old." Attending to the urban modern through the contemporary (post) colonial cityscape requires that we recast how we define the modern and the modern city. But, we must address, co-terminously, both the embedded colonizing assumptions which continue to shape the ordinary prejudices of the modern, as importantly, the constitutive contradictions, layered practices, and material paradoxes fundamental to differentiating global modernities.
|Translated title of the contribution||Live the Way the World Does: Imagining the Modern in the Spatial Returns of Kolkata and Calcutta|
|Number of pages||22|
|Journal||Space and Culture|
|Publication status||Published - Feb 2010|
Bibliographical notePublisher: Sage
- Walter Benjamin
- postcolonial cities