The Mellon Fellowship Programme at LSE in Cities and the Humanities
The intellectual objective of the Fellowship is to provide those working in the humanities with a meaningful way of connecting with the study of urban life, and to open up new avenues for practical collaboration and intellectual exchange between the humanities and urbanism. Spending nine months at LSE Cities, the Mellon Fellow will develop his/her own research in the context of the work on the urban environment carried out by the department, working with postgraduate students in an ‘urban design studio’ setting and collaborating with academic colleagues across the LSE and other institutions, promoting the opportunities for cross disciplinarity that their own field of expertise can contribute.
Beginning with the assumption that the metropolis is inherently melancholic, this project proposes to map the contemporary cityscape in terms that spatialize the condition’s associated feelings of loss, abjection and implacability. It begins by examining key sites drawn from within the deracinated inner urban centre of present-day Johannesburg in order to examine apartheid’s melancholic afterlife and its inscription upon the outwardly democratic city. In so doing, the project draws lessons from melancholia’s Ancient Saturnal beginnings right through to current theorizations in postcolonial and race studies regarding the potential critical value of the condition—what was long referred to as its malus genius. As such, this project frames melancholia as a spatial pathology that not only conditions feelings of disconsolation but which, crucially, also elicits new modes of radical engagement with the city. Through analysis of recent works of creative non-fiction writing, film and public performance, this project will provide an alternative model for reading critically the increasing sense of atrophy and ennui afflicting cities like Johannesburg.
Situated in the wake of of India’s independence in 1947, New Citizens will scrutinize the ways in which political and economic uncertainties of the postcolonial moment enabled the emergence of new violent forms of politics led by urban literary intellectuals in western India. “Urban life” and “independence” had held promises of prosperity and security, but the decades after Indian independence proved that neither prosperity nor security were guaranteed. Unresolved social differences of caste resulted in unequal comforts of citizenship, and former ‘untouchable’ or ‘Dalit’ workers became the target of frequent violence around issues of employment. Led by Dalit-Marxist poets and intellectuals, Dalits countered this violence by organizing themselves into the militant Dalit Panther Party which was modeled after the Black Panther Party in the US that had armed black Americans for self-defense. Dalit Panthers demanded that their own aspirations be acknowledged, and denounced both Indian independence and the existing working-class movement.
The project will provide a glimpse into the challenges faced by urban colonial “subjects” to transform into new “urban citizens.” This was a part of a broader transformation in postcolonial cities around the world as they came to terms with new conceptions of democracy. New Citizens will pay special attention to the emergence of neighborhoods, conceptions of public safety and the use of public space as a venue for demonstrative and spectacular politics to show the ways in which this transition marked the physical form and the cultural and political life of cities in South Asia.
Mellon Research Fellow for 2014-2015: Dr Naomi Roux Dr Roux's Urban Memoryscapes project examined the means by which collective and public memory in inscribed and contested in urban space. Dr Roux has been selected as holder of the Ray Pahl Urban Studies Fellowship for 2016. The Fellowship is based at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town.