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Gyan Prakash
Trustees of Princeton University (Princeton, NJ 08540-5228)
Bombay/Mumbai Fables: Imaginary Histories of the Modern City

A metropolis of nearly 14 millions today, Mumbai (formerly Bombay) it is the ur symbol of the modern city in India. It is not just a physical space but also an idea. What is striking about the city is the persistence of its image as a place of promise in the face of staggering odds. Images of spectacle and ruin co-exist. These images express experiences and ideas of social life. Jonathan Raban says that the "soft city" of imaginations is as real as the "hard city" of brick and mortar. My book project is about the Bombay/Mumbai's history as a "soft city." Covering the period since the mid-nineteenth century to the present, I plan to excavate the histories of its spatial form, architecture, urban planning, literary, journalistic, and cinematic representations, and politics to reveal the imaginations of the modern city AS society, to ask what aspirations of social life do they express. My sources include archival records, newspapers, literary & pulp fiction, cinema, and ethnography.

Project fields:
South Asian History

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2008 – 6/30/2009