Speculating on urban futures: The growth of an emerging South Indian city, Cochin
(University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
Examining the emerging city of Cochin whose development has been driven by financial speculation, the paper explores the actors (developers, financiers and bureaucrats) and their 'hustlings,' interrogating how notions of investable futurity are constructed and endowed upon spaces
Paper long abstract:
Cochin, an emerging city in South India (on the Malabar Coast), has seen extraordinary urban development and growth in the last two decades, much of it driven by the high-end residential real estate sector, 60-70% of which stands unoccupied held by Non-Resident Indian (NRI) living abroad (mostly in the UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar) as "long-term investments." No longer is real estate development in this city just about building for use-value, but increasingly more so for exchange-value as forms of long-term investments and speculative financial gain. The paper examines this juxtaposition, focusing on how Cochin's 'residential flat' has come to be constructed as a viable investment to reap the rewards of the city's (and more broadly the state's) 'impending' future of urban growth and development. That imagining of the city's 'impending future,' I contend is something deeply rooted in constructed understandings of their urban present as being 'backwards,' headed towards a future currently embodied by cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Singapore (cities to which many Keralites also emigrate to in search of securing their own economic mobility and future). Such constructions of temporality on space, I argue, inform what 'the modern' and 'the future' can look like in emerging cities such as Cochin, which then in turn materialize (though at times in compromised form) as capital is moved accordingly by people for its construction.