Presentation on theme: "Capital City Relocation and the Quest for Alternatives Rajiv Rawat Association of American Geographers Conference Spring 2006."— Presentation transcript:
Capital City Relocation and the Quest for Alternatives Rajiv Rawat Association of American Geographers Conference Spring 2006
An Examination The Function of Capital Cities: As engines of economic growth, markers of national identity, etc. The Relocation of Capital Cities: Traditional reasons & recent examples Constructed Capitals: Modernization & notions of modernity A sub-national case study: A struggle of capitals in a new state of India
Capital Cities, Cities of Capital Most, but not all capital cities are also a country’s largest city. Focal point of economic development, political administration, public sphere. De facto cosmopolitan due to its diplomatic linkages, governmental institutions, & economic opportunities that draw citizens from throughout country.
Imagining a Nation As seats of state power, capitals serve to define the national identity. Capitals can either invoke or submerge history depending on the ideological needs of the state. Capitals represent the country to the world.
Capitals Apart In several key instances, countries have decided to move their capitals from primary cities, or have constructed wholly new cities. This is particularly true of federations. US (Washington DC), Canada (Ottawa), Australia (Canberra) China (Beijing), India (New Delhi), Pakistan (Islamabad), Turkey (Ankara)
Examples from the State Level Capital city not the primary city in majority of US states (33 of 50). Capital city as the secondary city in half of Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Québec, New Brunswick). Vermont rotated its capital between 1777 and 1805 before settling on Montpelier.
Some Changes in Capital Cities Brazil, 1950s Malawi, 1980s Nigeria, 1990s
Reasons for Relocation For nascent countries/federations, new, neutral locales useful in overcoming advantages and influence of preexisting power centres. Capitals can provide an important engine in the development of hinterlands. Can aid in rectifying demographic imbalances rooted in country’s particular geography.
Brave New World Cities Both Brasília & Chandigarh emblematic of 1950s social engineering through architecture & city planning. Both attempted to wrench their respective nations into modernity through the construction of a positivist, technological utopia. This vision of modernity arguably still the dominant paradigm animating developing countries in the post- developmentalist era.
From Modernism(s) to Globalization(s) Modernism & Modernization has been largely superseded by world city & globalization literature in looking at these issues. Has allowed the Integration of vital socio-cultural & political perspectives in a hitherto economically dominated discourse.
Beyond Binaries Evident that most academic discourse biased against the Local – “Globe Talk” as master discourse (Robertson, 1992) Even arguments that seek to afford agency to the Local stress their capacity to cope & hybridize, rather than autonomy (Jackson, 2004). Defense of the Local often left to reactionary, conservative forces, e.g., rural-urban political divide.
Case Study: Uttaranchal The hill state of Uttaranchal was carved out of Uttar Pradesh state in 2000 after a peaceful struggle by its people for local autonomy. Dehradun appointed provisional capital for an indefinite period over the objections of many autonomy movement activists. Ongoing movement for a permanent location of capital city.
Uttaranchal at a Glance Gairsain Dehradun P L A I N S H I G H L A N D S INDIA State Population: 8.5 million Dehradun Population: 500,000 Gairsain Population: 6,000 Urban to Rural Ratio: 1:3 Plains to Hills Ratio: 8:9 – (Indian Census 2001)
Not the Only Ones? Binary of Dehradun vs. Gairsain potentially problematic as it excludes other cities & towns with claims to fame: Rishikesh as a spiritual centre, Kotdwar as the gateway to Garhwal, Kalagarh as the gateway to Corbett National Park, Nainital & Mussoorie as ertswhile summer hill stations of the British Raj, etc. However, binary useful as a starting point in focusing attention on notions of modernit(ies).
Why Dehradun? Large, well connected city, yet peripherally located within new state Amongst the most cosmopolitan mid- sized cities in India Location of many eminent governmental & educational institutions Reputation for salubrious climate (although currently strained by excessive pollution & unsustainable growth)
Political Factors Alleviates irredentist claims of plains districts where opposition to statehood was strongest. Close to the plains & continued control from New Delhi. Allows for continued dominance of traditional bureaucratic & state actors (i.e., remote control of hinterland)
Dehradun’s Unmentionables Dominated by an “English colonial sub- culture” that has geographically segmented the city along class lines. City’s Cosmopolitanism is in fact composed of an ethnic hierarchy with the titular nationalities in the middle. Interim capital status has already aggravated environmental problems in the valley, leading to a majority of residents opposing this new status.
Why Gairsain? Central geographical location between Garhwal & Kumaon, the two titular nationalities of Uttarakhand. Situated in the hills proper thus deliberately inhabiting the “lifeworld” of poorest citizens. Seen as a solution to severe underdevelopment in the hills and geographically induced uneven development. Seen by some as an opportunity for a fresh start in the modernist fashion.
Uniqueness of Gairsain The modernist impulse for a brave new capital is lacking, particularly in an era of modesty & lowered expectations. Symbol of an alternative vision of modernity & development based on Himalayan geography and “La Realidad” of rural poverty. May aid in transforming governance to be accountable & close to its people.
Gairsain as a Social Movement No charismatic leader with a vision, but a multiplicity of voices. Strongly coupled with the autonomy movement. Anti-colonial heritage: village is strongly associated with freedom fighter Chander Singh Garhwali, hence the move to rename it Chandranagar. Gairsain movement is led by women who form the majority in the hill districts, but a shrinking minority in the plains.
Empowering the Local Gairsain Movement not anti-cosmopolitan as it is supported by progressive forces in the state. Key issue is neglect of rural poor by city bureaucracy where powerful lobbies & vested interests rule. Gairsain ensures mobility of government from community to community. Derhadun leads to entrenchment of traditional plains-based dominant classes. As geographic factors will always favour plains, a capital in the hills proper would only ensure some measure of equal development.
All Possible Futures The success of Gairsain will rest on the ability of its proponents to articulate a clear vision in keeping with the goals of their movement. Geographic centrality must serve as a bridge to all regions, not just isolated pocket surrounding Gairsain. “Alternative modernity” direction would make the move worthwhile, otherwise the vision may get lost in the grand modernist delusions of the past (Linkenback, 2000).
Most Importantly… While empowering the Local, a capital at Gairsain could balance development policy in the state. It would ensure the survival of the Local by this act of physical affirmation & embodiment. It would overcome the global-local binary by bringing the global to the local & vice-versa in keeping with the evolving political and cultural identity of the state.
Further Information Archived materials on the Dehradun vs. Gairsain debate uttarakhand.net