A Place for Utopia is firmly rooted in a South Asian context but links questions and discussions of its urbanism, religion, pasts and futures to a global milieu and history. The volume blends ethnographic, visual, and archival methods and uses various ideas of ‘utopia’ for social science analysis that can productively open up new intellectual spaces, other histories, and urban policies. It moves across a hundred year period of South Asian modernity and its challenges from the early twentieth century to the early twenty-first century. Central to the designs for utopia in this book are the themes of gardens, children, spiritual topographies, death, and hope.
From the vitalist urban plans of the Scottish polymath Patrick Geddes in India to the Theosophical Society in Madras and the ways in which it provided a context for a novel South Indian garden design; from the visual, textual and ritual designs of Californian Vedanta from the 1930s to the present to the spatial transformations associated with post-1990s highway and rapid transit systems in Bangalore that are shaping an emerging “Indian New Age” of religious and somatic self-styling, Srinivas tells the story of contrapuntal histories, the contiguity of lives, and resonances between utopian worlds that is generative of designs for cultural alternatives and futures.
This book will be of considerable interest to students and scholars of urban studies, anthropology, religion, geography, sociology, philosophy, South Asian studies, design, history, and cultural studies.
Smriti Srinivas is professor of anthropology at University of California, Davis. She is the author of Landscapes of Urban Memory: The Sacred and the Civic in India’s High-Tech City; In the Presence of Sai Baba: Body, City, and Memory in a Global Religious Movement; and The Mouths of People, The Voice of God: Buddhists and Muslims in the Frontier Community of Ladakh.
Introduction: Placing Timelines
1. Biocentric Eutopias in South Asia
2. Ecotopias, Theosophy, and the South Indian City
3. Utopian Settlements and Californian Vedanta
4. Highways, Thresholds, and an Indian New Age
Conclusion: Designing and Dwelling in Place