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Nikhil Anand

Tue, Oct 10, 2023    1:15pm

Predominantly Grey: On Stormwater Drains and Foreclosed Futures

A lecture by Nikhil Anand, Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, organized as part of the Lectures in Planning Series (LiPS) at Columbia GSAPP.

This talk focuses on the ways in which engineers of Mumbai’s Storm Water Department (SWD) have been responding to the increasing intensity of rainfall and flooding in Mumbai. The city’s water engineers are acutely aware of the insufficiencies of current paradigms to reduce flooding in the city. Engineers recognize that flood events are caused and exacerbated by the relentless concretization of the city in the sea. They know that the increased likelihood of cyclones makes inhabiting the city dangerous; that a cyclone that hits the hardened and dried cityscape will be “like a bomb when it happens”. Given this, why do engineers refuse to consider entering into different relations with urban water (such as those suggested by planners proposing green infrastructure)? What accounts for the intransigence of Sisyphean projects to dry the city? Dwelling on their words and work, this talk explores how and why SWD engineers and administrators insist that future of flood infrastructure (and of the city itself) is “predominantly grey”.

Nikhil Anand is a Daniel Braun Silvers and Robert Peter Silvers Family Presidential Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.

He is an environmental anthropologist whose research focuses on cities, infrastructure, state power and climate change. He addresses these questions by studying the political ecology of cities, read through the different lives of water.

Dr. Anand has been a Member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, a Quadrant Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota, and a Mellon Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center. His award-winning first book, Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Politics in Mumbai (Duke University Press 2017), examines the everyday ways in which cities and citizens are made through the everyday management of water infrastructure. Articles based on this research have also been published in Antipode, City and Society, Cultural Anthropology, Ethnography and Public Culture.

Organized by the Urban Planning Program at Columbia GSAPP.