NOTES ON RURALITY OR THE THEORETICAL USEFULNESS OF THE NOT-URBAN

Swarnabh Ghosh, “Notes on Rurality or The Theoretical Usefulness of the Not-Urban,” The Avery Review 27, November 2017.

The recent discourse of planetary urbanization tends to discard the categorical difference between the constitutive urban and the non-urban. While this diagnosis of ‘the ubiquitous urban’ subsuming (and making obsolete) ‘the countryside’ is a useful tool for analyzing the processes of urbanization in the context of post-Fordist accumulation, this essay proposes a momentary retreat. This is not to mount a rearguard action against this proposition but to better understand its points of origin and to complicate its formulation of the theoretical category of ‘the urban’. This essay does so through a discussion of Henri Lefebvre’s notion of ‘rurality’ and its historical relationship to ‘the urban’ and ‘urban life’. In addition to a discussion of Lefebvre’s ‘urban-rural’ dialectic, this essay seeks – through a brief discussion of the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor, an ongoing project of neoliberal urbanization – to illustrate emergent forms of managerial governmentality that are inscribing new sets of relationships between territory and capital through the construction of purportedly “smart” cities in predominantly agrarian landscapes. This analysis has two purposes: (i) to delaminate or unfocus the concept of ubiquitous ‘planetary’ urbanization and arrive at a ‘thick’ multivalent understanding of the not-urban and its ongoing transformation under various modes of capitalist development, and (ii) to initiate the study of a contemporary project of territorial management that seeks to concentrate vast amounts of global capital along an infrastructural spine imposed on heretofore “undeveloped” agrarian landscapes.

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Farming tracts in the village of Dholera, the site for the upcoming Dholera Special Investment Region.