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Higher Seminar: Predominantly Grey: On Stormwater Drains and their Foreclosed Futures

Time: Fri 2023-10-27 13.00 - 15.00

Location: H1

Language: English

Participating: Nikhil Anand, Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania

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This talk focuses on the ways in which engineers of Mumbai’s Storm Water Department (SWD) have been responding to the increasing intensity of rainfall and flooding in Mumbai. The city’s water engineers are acutely aware of the insufficiencies of current paradigms to reduce flooding in the city. Engineers recognize that flood events are caused and exacerbated by the relentless concretization of the city in the sea. They know that the increased likelihood of cyclones makes inhabiting the city dangerous; that a cyclone that hits the hardened and dried cityscape will be “like a bomb when it happens”. Given this, why do engineers refuse to consider entering into different relations with urban water (such as those suggested by planners proposing green infrastructure)? What accounts for the intransigence of Sisyphean projects to dry the city? Dwelling on their words and work, this talk explores how and why SWD engineers and administrators insist that future of flood infrastructure (and of the city itself) is “predominantly grey”.

Nikhil Anand is the Daniel Braun Silvers and Robert Peter Silvers Presidential Professor of Anthropology, and Associate Faculty Director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on cities, infrastructure, state power and climate change. His first book, Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Politics in Mumbai (Duke University Press, 2017), examines the everyday ways in which cities and citizens are made through the everyday management of water infrastructure. His current book project, Urban Seas, decenters the grounds of urban planning by drawing attention to the ways in which climate-changed seas are remaking coastal cities today.

Belongs to: Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment
Last changed: Oct 19, 2023