ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Urban Jungles

Wilderness, Parks and Their Publics in Delhi

In an exploration of the processes through which urban India acquires or loses green spaces, this article examines how parks and urban publics are mutually constituted in Delhi. Social change has led to a re-imagination of cultural meanings and modes of ecological management. Ecological change, in turn, has created new social relations around the use and protection of nature. Analysing Mangarbani, a sacred grove on the edge of the metropolis, and the Delhi Ridge, a “wilderness” domesticated for recreational use, the author argues that the creation and preservation of certain forms of urban nature relate to the shifting sensibilities of elites, especially the section that acts as a self-appointed vanguard of environmental causes. However, other users of public green areas challenge the far-reaching effects of this “bourgeois environmentalism.” The contested meanings and practices around urban natures create new alliances and understandings that may promote ecology and justice.

A modified version of this article will appear in Grounding Urban Natures: Histories and Futures of Urban Ecologies, edited by Henrik Ernstson and Sverker Sörlin, forthcoming from the MIT Press in 2018.

The Cultural Politics of ‘Socio-nature’

The relationship between nature and society has been a focus of attention in the social sciences and humanities since their inception. In this article, however, I follow only one thread of a complex skein of theories, starting with Raymond Williams’s (1972) seminal essay “Ideas of Nature.” Williams argued that nature was a cultural artefact: not only was the natural world physically transformed by human actions, our very perception of it was shaped by socially produced ideas and sentiments. Referring to this material and imaginative work, Williams (1972: 83) wrote: “We have mixed our labour with the earth, our forces with its forces too deeply to be able to separate each other out.” His classic, The Country and the City shows how an urbanising society, with its “historically varied experience” of the Industrial Revolution, came to change its view of rural life and the countryside, a shift reflected in the literature of the period (Williams 1973: 2).

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Updated On : 19th Jan, 2018
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