A report on the course “Critical Urban Theory in Practice” Module I

Mumbai, India 4-8 of January, 2016

Report by Dr. Maryam Nastar, LUCSUS

The joint Phd Course, “Critical Urban Theory: Citizenship, Marginalities, Livelihood Struggles and Innovations in Practice”, is organized by Campuses of Right Livelihood College (RLC), Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS) and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and its Centre for Livelihoods and Social Innovation (CLSI).


Figure 1 Students and teachers in the classroom in TISS, Center for Livelihoods and Social Innovation. Photo by Dr. Maryam Nastar, LUCSUS

During the first module of the course, TISS (CLSI) hosted around 15 students from India and Sweden together with LUCSUS faculty. Over a week of lectures and heated seminar discussions, students explored how critical urban theory on issues surrounding redevelopment of slums can potentially contribute to bringing housing and other urban spaces under democratic control.

As a part of the course, the Right Livelihood Laureate, Medha Patkar held a public lecture in TISS. Participants listened to her inspiring and powerful voice and her extensive experience of mobilizing community and slum dwellers to access to shelter and basic services. Known as an influential icon for the struggles in India and beyond, Medha Patkar talked about various social and political actions led by her to oppose to slum rehabilitation projects that are poorly communicated to the residents of affected areas, and thus, have been instruments for evicting people with no alternative houses or rights to land.


Figure 2 The public lecture by Medha Patkar, the Right Livelihood Laurate. Photo by Prof. Eric Clark, LUCSUS

Figure 3 Audience listening to the inspiring talk by Medha Patkar. Photo by Prof. Eric Clark, LUCSUS


Figure 4 Medha Patkar together with community activists talking about grassroots initiatives in East Vikhroli. Photo by Dr. Maryam Nastar, LUCSUS

Inspired by Medha Patkar’s public lecture, the participants visited her grass-roots initiatives and slum improvement projects in Mumbai, over a day of fieldtrip to East Vikhroli. The fieldtrip was organized by TISS students and faculty.


Figure 5 Fieldtrip to East Vikhroli. The photo of Medha Patkar can be seen on the wall of community public meeting venue. Photo by Dr. Maryam Nastar, LUCSUS


Figure 6 Fieldtrip to East Vikhroli. Photo by Prof. Eric Clark, LUCSUS

Informed by the course materials and insights gained from the field visit, the course participants explored and discussed driving forces behind displacement as well as activities that can support the community struggle against constant fear of eviction and homelessness. This was performed during last day of the course and in the format of student group presentations.

The course was rounded off with the LUCSUS faculty’s panel discussion wherein teachers presented some of their ongoing research, and together with PhD and Master’s students, they discussed objectives and rationale of grass-root initiatives and social movements.


Figure 7 Collective photo on last day of the course. LUCSUS and TISS faculty together with some of students. Photo by Dr. Maryam Nastar, LUCSUS

The second module of the course will be held in Lund, Sweden from 4 to 8 of April, 2016. LUCUS invites all the eligible PhD candidates to register for the second module by 15 February. More information about the course content can be found here:


List of organizers and teachers:

  • Dr. Maryam Nastar, LUCSUS, Course coordinator/Lecturer
  • Dr. Banerjee Swati, TISS, Co-organizer/Lecturer
  • Dr. Santha Sunil, TISS, Co-organizer/Lecturer
  • Prof. Eric Clark, LUCSUS/Human Geography, Lecturer
  • Dr. Mine Islar, LUCSUS, Lecturer
  • Dr. Turaj Faran, LUCSUS, Lecturer
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