City of a Nation and a Nation of Cities: Jawaharlal Nehru and the Civic Consciousness of Anti-Colonial Nationalism in India


Most historical writings on India have often put the village as the backdrop of the study of Indian society. This has come from certain intellectual perception of India as often been consisting of “village republics” or agrarian society widely prevalent in Colonial India. This sidelines the history of cities and how they were crucial in the history of India, and specially in the history of the colonial struggle. Many of the national leaders, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhai Patel, had emerged from their experiences in the management of city municipalities. City hence influenced them in their own perceptions of the city and the nation at large. This paper will go deeply to explore the question of city, the civic consciousness and the nation that is emerging in the thoughts of Jawaharlal Nehru as he is preparing himself to lead the anti-colonial struggle. He was the chairman of Allahabad Municipality from the years 1923 to 1925. Nehru was keenly observing the developments in city managements in various parts of the world and he was willing to learn from them. As Nehru was left in the conflict of running the city versus the fight for the nation, the important question was whether colonialism was the primary contradiction or were the inherent societal inequalities like caste too an important influence on the spatial and civic consciousness of the Indian cities? What did the city contribute to the nation?

Author Information
Mohd Aquil, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

Paper Information
Conference: CITY2017
Stream: History, Anthropology and Archaeology

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon