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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Manufactured magnificence in the 'Millennial City' : the (post)colonial politics of a sport-focused gated community development in Gurgaon, India Waldman, Devra


This dissertation explores the (dis)connections between urban development, colonial legacies and postcolonial expressions of space, and ideas associated with sport/leisure. These (dis)connections are specifically explored through the emergence of a sport-focused gated community in Gurgaon, India. This research looks to better understand how this community is produced by public/private actors, the role of sport in urban development, how land is made available for such uses, how experiences of dispossession reflect broader state/citizen relationships, and how this development is connected to financial capital and legacies of colonialism. I conducted a global ethnography (Burawoy, 2000) of this community, employing a range of methods including observations, interviews, and qualitative document analysis. I begin by investigating how the community was imagined by executives, architects, and consultants, and how the community is promoted to potential buyers. Findings reveal that conceptualizations of this community are reflective of broader neoliberal policy changes in the region, and also that promotional materials reference colonial and postcolonial notions of sport and space. Additionally, I highlight the ways sport/leisure is utilized in creating spaces outside temporary moments of mega events. Following, I explore strategies used to acquire land, experiences of dispossession, and resistance to (il)legal land acquisition. I demonstrate how (in)formal modes of governance differentially discipline people through uneven applications of law. This reveals the unstable boundaries between what is considered legitimate and illegitimate in land acquisition and development. Next, I examine the design decisions made by architects and development executives. I highlight how architecture, in this case, (re)produces aesthetic sensibilities predicated on exclusionary practices. I also critically interrogate the uses of golf to produce a sanitized environment – and connect this analysis to colonial imaginations of civilized landscapes and contemporary politics of urban beautification. Overall, this dissertation contributes to literatures on sport and urban (re)development, economic liberalization and urban politics in India, and gated communities. Taken together, drawing theoretically from Ong’s (2006) notions of neoliberalism, and Chakrabarty’s call to provincialize Europe, this study illustrates how this space is connected to colonial practices of domination and shifts towards the facilitation of global capital, but cannot be reduced to this narrative exclusively.

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