The Marketplace as hybrid space : re-reading Barabazaar and the city
More often than not, former colonial cities like Kolkata (Calcutta) have been analysed in ways that reinforce an essentialising colonial discourse, using un-interrogated colonial sources, which rarely reveal the contradictions and disruptions integral to the whole 'messy' and 'dirty' historical process. A potential antidote to such essentialism is hybridity theory, which although having undergone some extensive re-interpretations has become a key concept within the field of postcolonial studies. Within the context of India, the work of Homi K. Bhabha is routinely cited as authorising such hybrid identities. Bhabha's idea of hybridity suggests an approach to reading place that understands the overlapping geographies, both indigenous and foreign, and mixed narratives of the past and present day, that were and are constantly negotiated. However, much postcolonial theory is saturated with a spatiafised language which usually functions in the 'abstract.' This thesis seeks to move beyond the spatial rhetoric of colonial and postcolonial theory and return it to more 'real' geographies. It is concerned with showing how the materiality of place and the more imaginary world of theory were and are fundamental parts of colonial and postcolonial formations in the past and present day. Thus this PhD seeks to bring together Homi K. Bhabha's notion of hybridity, with particular places in a 'traditional' market area in Kolkata, called Barabazaar. Barabazaar was chosen as an empirical focus for this thesis, because it seemed an appropriate 'laboratory' to test Bhabha's ideas on cultural hybridity. Bhabha's concept of hybridity builds on Mikhail Bakhtin's notion of the 'intentional hybrid,' which itself is rooted in Bakhtin's writings on the marketplace. The 'traditional' marketplace is the epitome of local identity and often it is what defined a place as more significant than surrounding communtes. Perhaps of more importance is the unsettling of that identity by the trade and traffic of 9oods from elsewhere that defined the market as a site of 'hybricY meanings. A qualitative research strategy informed by hybrid ethnographic research techniques was adopted. Following literature searches in the United Kingdom and India, four trips were made to Kolkata to complete the fieldwork in Barabazaar, as follows: detailed analysis of building uses and trading patterns; mapping and photographing over 200 courtyard houses; detailed measured surveys of six courtyard houses, and semi-structured taped interviews with their owners; a survey of China Bazaar; semi-structured taped interviews with a number of paper traders. In order to give a more grounded understanding of hybridity, I focus on a number of research themes in Barabazaar, including: the construction of a largely colonial 'urban history of Kolkata,' and the formation of an intertwined 'hybrid' narrative of health and modernity; the 'hybrid' vision that Sir Patrick Geddes adopted for proposals for Barabazaar, in 1919; the 'hybrid' sense of space found in the courtyard houses of Barabazaar; and, the culture of the street and bazaar as a paradigmatic example of 'hybrid' outside space. In this context, this thesis deals with both present day lives of people who live and/or work in Barabazaar, and their urban histories that they are inevitably and intimately connected to. The conclusion explores the context of hybridity in this thesis, and makes connections between the various chapters of this thesis. I build on these hybrid narratives outlining the multifocused sense of place we are left with, providing a number of open-ended conclusions, as follows: firstly, a view of history borrowed from Dipesh Chakrabarty, called 'Provincialising Europe'; secondly, Bhabha's notion of 'hybrid communities,' and 'partial' cultures; and, thirdly, a more mobile and reconfigured sense of place. I conclude by reflecting on a future architectural research agenda of hybrid urbanism.