Colloquium lecture: Human Rights and the Everyday Urban

2018 Jan 12, Friday
Room 204, 2nd  Floor, Pixel B (Azim Premji University)

About the Lecture

While an idealist position tends to assume the notion of human rights is established and axiomatic, our history in the universalisation of rights is very recent, and there is much work to be done on further conceptualisation.  A major disconnect is that human rights are defined and protected at the scale of the nation-state but must be negotiated on a daily basis at the scale of the city. The consequence, particularly in the case of a country like India, is that we assume models of urban planning and governance whose inherent protocols exclude, by definition, substantive portions of our urban population. The fact that we barely perceive this reveals the distance between the ideal of rights and our imagination of the city.

To build just cities, it is insufficient to literally rescale our models of human rights from the nation to the city. At the national level, rights are predicated on a definition of citizenship that is held relatively stable by the protocols of immigration, whereas the city thrives on migration and mobility.  Rights at the urban level will need to be based on protocols of recognition and inhabitation rather than a juridical foundation of citizenship. Once one seeks to build human rights on the basis of inhabitation and daily routine, one runs up against a paradoxical relationship between the impulse to form the community and the moral standard of rights.  Both are essential to a healthy society, but community evolves on the recognition of similarity whereas rights evolve on the allowance granted to the difference. The presentation will explore the implications of seeking to apply citizenship, community, and rights to the everyday urban; and propose some directions to be explored to redefine the urban public realm as a space of human rights.


About the Speaker

Prem Chandavarkar is the managing partner of CnT Architects: an award-winning and widely-published architectural practice based in Bangalore, India. He is a former Executive Director of Srishti School of Art Design & Technology in Bangalore and is an academic advisor and guest faculty at Indian and international colleges of architecture. Besides his design practice at CnT, he writes, lectures and blogs on architecture, urbanism, art, cultural studies, philosophy, politics, and education.