This panel explores development policies in relation to the physical and political landscape of C20th South Asia. It provides a critical historical assessment by unpacking and contextualising 'development' projects that sought to transform space, society, people and nature before and after 1947.
This panel explores the impact that development policies and politics have had on the physical and political environment - and on the people living in it - in different parts of late colonial and post-1947 South Asia. Imperial rule, post-colonial ambitions, nation-state building and so-called 'modernisation' drives have all left their mark—both materially and imaginatively—on the South Asian landscape. Pre-1947 planning rhetoric that stressed the need for greater 'efficiency' made way for a growing emphasis on 'development' in the recalibrated political environment that followed independence. From the rapid growth of metropolitan centres (planned as well as unplanned) and the knock-on demands made on their rural hinterlands, to attempts at drastically reconfiguring the countryside's topography (e.g. dams, canals, roads, electricity pylons …), the fabric of economic, political, social and cultural life for large numbers of South Asian people was repeatedly unpicked, rewoven and unpicked again by attempts to reshape the material framework within which they lived and operated. The papers making up this panel collectively offer a critical historical assessment of 'development' by reconsidering specific attempts to transform the intricate realities of space, society, people's lives and nature both before and after independence. Panel organisers: Dr Markus Daechsel (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Professor Sarah Ansari (Royal Holloway,University of London).