Taming the Residual: Animals, Workers, and Cities in India
Ajay Gandhi (Leiden University)
This Public Lecture draws from a book manuscript on Old Delhi, male workers and residents there, and the urban condition in north India. A work of anthropology, it theorizes the wider state of postcolonial modernity.
To do so, the lecture develops a conceptual framework around the “residual”. Contemporary analysts often dwell on how capitalism, the state, and modernity operate. These forces are seen to repress, subsume, and contain – to mark an irretrievable rupture. From urban studies to social theory, extant domains are said to become superfluous, rationalized, and obsolete. The idea of the “residual” offers a theoretical and ethnographic corrective to such analysis.
I suggest that we need greater awareness of how, across the Global South, social hierarchy and political power operate in and through – rather than by expelling or suppressing – residual elements. From Asia to Africa and Latin America, a better vocabulary is necessary for unpacking the neglected, asynchronous, and animated – residual publics, spaces, and sentiments – in postcolonial societies. Using a range of ethnographic examples, in Old Delhi, the residual is not a mere synonym for what is leftover or waste. Rather, I argue that the residual is a compact of marginal groups, popular spaces, and affective dispositions coproduced alongside efforts to disavow and condition them.
Ajay Gandhi is an Assistant Professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands. His interests are in urban, political, and economic anthropology, with a focus on South Asia. He was a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (MPI-MMG) in Göttingen (2011-2017), and received his PhD in Anthropology from Yale University in 2010. He has published on transactional and material forms, postcolonial jurisdiction, human-animal relations, urban friction, and social aesthetics and concepts.
12 July 2023
Seminarraum S 253,