Rule by Aesthetics: World-Class City Making in Delhi.

Date and Time

March 29, 2011

10:15 am to 12:00 pm


If “modern” cities are supposed to be built through techno-scientific procedures of urban planning and government—such as maps, censuses, and zoning—the conspicuous shortage of such techniques in the world-class redevelopment of Delhi raises the question of how rule there is achieved. If we apply western models of government and planning to the Delhi context, this shortage looks like a type of failure. But, the Delhi case shows that this is not about failed government, but a different mode of governing space. In this talk, I offer various slices into how urban aesthetics has replaced maps and statistics as a key technology of government. In addition to discussing the theoretical implications of an aesthetic mode of rule, I will describe how middle class codes of appearance and civility have been used to project a new vision of urban space, and how slum residents have received, taken up and reworked these codes in pursuit of their own dreams of a “world-class” future.   Asher Ghertner is a human geographer based at the LSE whose work focuses on the technologies and tactics through which mass displacement is conceived, justified and enacted. His research uses the contemporary politics of slum demolition and world-class city-making strategies in Delhi to challenge conventional theories of economic transition, urban planning and political rule. He has conducted extended ethnographic fieldwork in Delhi’s informal ‘slum’ and elite residential settlements on the politics of land access, and has published on Delhi’s Bhagidari scheme, slum-related legal discourse, and everyday struggles in informal settlements. Asher obtained his PhD in 2010 from the University of California, Berkeley.  __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ This is the fourteenth in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues related to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society, and politics. For further information, please contact: Marie-Hélène Zerah at or Partha Mukhopadhyay at