Modern Pirates

Ravi Sundaram is one of the initiators of the Sarai programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) which he co-directs with his colleague Ravi Vasudevan.

His research focus is "at the intersection of the city and contemporary media experiences. His current research looks at the enmeshing of urban spaces in India from the 1980s onwards with new electronic cultures (copy networks, cable television, mass music culture and computer networks). In Sundaram’s view, this has resulted in a phenomenon he terms a pirate or recycled modernity (1998), which is dispersed and unconcerned with Western modernity’s classic search for originality and posing fresh theoretical questions for ideas of experience, memory, representation and conflict. Sundaram has spoken and presented on these issues in India and around the world."

The Indian edition of his new book, Pirate Modernity has just been released by Routledge. "Using Delhi’s contemporary history as a site for reflection, Pirate Modernity moves from a detailed discussion of the technocratic design of the city by US planners in the 1950s, to the massive expansions after 1977, culminating in the urban crisis of the 1990s. As a practice, pirate modernity is an illicit form of urban globalization. Poorer urban populations increasingly inhabit non-legal spheres: unauthorized neighborhoods, squatter camps and bypass legal technological infrastructures (media, electricity). This pirate culture produces a significant enabling resource for subaltern populations unable to enter the legal city. Equally, this is an unstable world, bringing subaltern populations into the harsh glare of permanent technological visibility, and attacks by urban elites, courts and visceral media industries. The book examines contemporary Delhi from some of these sites: the unmaking of the city's modernist planning design, new technological urban networks that bypass states and corporations, and the tragic experience of the road accident terrifyingly enhanced by technological culture. Pirate Modernity moves between past and present, along with debates in Asia, Africa and Latin America on urbanism, media culture, and everyday life.

This pioneering book suggests cities have to be revisited afresh after proliferating media culture. Pirate Modernity boldly draws from urban and cultural theory to open a new agenda for a world after media urbanism."

Gyan Prakash of Princeton has this to say of the book: Empirically rich and interpretively ambitious, Pirate Modernity sparkles with brilliant insights on postcolonial urbanism. There is no work like this.

In our Culture, Media, and Urban Studies sections. Rs 495, 248 pages in paperback. ISBN: 9780415409667

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