ISRF Mid-Career Fellow 2021-22
ISRF Mid-Career Fellow 2021-22
Stephen Legg undertook his degree, doctorate and Junior Research Fellowship at the University of Cambridge before joining the University of Nottingham in 2005. His research centres on the geographies of late-colonialism, with a particular focus on British-Indian relations in the interwar period. His projects return to core interests in space and scale. In terms of the former he has studied New Delhi as the capital of the Raj, the end of tolerated Indian “red light” brothel zones in the 1920s, and London as conference city for Indian delegates in the early 1930s. In terms of scale he has explored Indian internationalism via the League of Nations, central-provincial relations in the Indian constitution, and the ways women in Delhi negotiated the boundary between public and private space. His past research has been funded by the ESRC, AHRC, Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy, and he is currently an editor of the Journal of Historical Geography. For more information see: https://stephenleggeog.wordpress.com/.
This project establishes innovative dialogues, theoretical insights, and methodologies between human geography, colonial history and the political sciences through a path breaking use of historical-GIS to map the spatial dynamics of urban communities. It provides historical insight into two of the most pressing social and political challenges facing contemporary South Asia: ‘communal’ (Hindu-Muslim) violence; and understanding the ‘city’. It shows how divisions emerged in interwar, late-colonial (1927-47) Delhi between previously intertwined religious communities, pre-shadowing the partition of cities, regions and India itself in August 1947. Analysing administrative files, CID-police reports, newspaper coverage and personal papers, both elite political mobilisation and popular participation in the city will be reconstructed, in dialogue with provocations and methodologies emerging from political sciences and colonial history. The former draws on ‘South Asian Governmentality’ work, exploring the rationalities and techniques through which communal behaviour was encouraged and disciplined. The latter draws on ‘Subaltern Studies’ historical research, teasing out methods for interpreting the political and social lives of non-elites. Mapping the processions, meeting grounds, sites of protest and communities of resilient commingling will evidence political motivations and participation, much of which resisted rather than supported communal division. Drawing upon University of Nottingham GIS expertise, the project pioneers two types of mapping: cartographic maps blend geographical and political analysis of processions, meetings, segregation and incidents; while spatial and cultural historical analysis blend in ‘mental maps’ gleaned from petitions, letters and memoirs, charting the geographical imagination of communal Delhi. A monograph will contribute an under-told history of India’s capital, and explore religions as lived, contested but neglected elements of the ongoing ‘urban turn’ in historical and political scholarship. More broadly, the project contributes to ongoing efforts to understand the causes behind social inequality, ideologies of difference, and the role of space in dividing but also uniting individuals and communities.