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Space as Political Text would result from such an all-encom-


passing emphasis on enforcing order
and seeming clarity upon built environ-
Urban Coherence and Dissonance in ments and in the uncharted terrains of
the Politics of Beautifying Colombo our collective subconscious?
In the context of the questions out-
lined above, this article will unfold as
follows. I will briefly explore these ques-
Sasanka Perera tions, with the post-war “beautification”
of Colombo city and its suburban exten-

I
Taking space and its n contemporary times, several influ- sions as my points of departure. At the
transformations as a political text, ential theories on urban planning same time, such a reading necessarily
and architecture privilege “order” requires a self-reflective theoretical and
this article looks into the
and “coherence” as crucial parameters conceptual understanding of space and
dynamics of inclusion and for urban construction. This thinking is place, grounded squarely in the domains
exclusion as well as the manner in also seen in South Asia, at least in the of culture and politics, and not merely in
which space is implicated in dominant discourses of state-funded and the clinical fields of design, planning,
privately-funded urban planning and and visualised aesthetics.
memory. It engages in this
housing initiatives, if not in the actual More simply, what does order mean in
exploration by focusing on the urban habitation practices and behav- specific local contexts? How do ordered
process known as the iours of people. In a sense, this brings to and evidently coherent urban spaces
“beautification” of Colombo mind the uncompromising attitude of acquire local meaning in the process of
the modernist architect, Howard Roark, building and landscaping? And, what
implemented by the Rajapaksa
the protagonist of Ayn Rand’s novel, The becomes invisible and silent? I am sug-
regime in Sri Lanka as one of its Fountainhead (1943). As Stuart Sim has gesting that any reasonable reading of
most iconic political programmes. argued, for Roark and for others who urban space and its planning and build-
think like him, their “constructions are ing dynamics must necessarily traverse
absolute in their demand for recogni- the messy realms of politics, culture,
tion,” which do “away with individual- and social anxieties, and the dynamics
ised nooks and crannies, the idiosyncra- these entail. That is, approaching urban
sies of clutter, in the name of purity” design and habitation only through the
(Sim 2001: 79). Purity, in this context, is disciplines of design and planning, in-
a gloss for order and coherence. stead of politics and culture, especially
This emphasis on order and coher- on the part of the state, architects
ence is not limited to the margins but is and town planners, does not allow us
very much at the centre of powerful dis- to comprehend the nuanced politics of
courses at the level of both, the state and urban space. I am further insinuating that
citizens. Many ordinary citizens in Delhi, the messy, and often invisible, realms of
Colombo, Kolkata, Dhaka, and other politics and sociocultural anxieties must
urban centres in the region, with whom necessarily enter planning and design
I have informally conversed over the last processes as well.
seven years on issues concerning urban
living, also take these assumptions for Post-2009 Urban Planning
This article is based on the keynote address granted. In addition, there is remarkable A key aspect of the recent Sri Lankan
delivered at the third International Conference coherence in the thinking of the state urban renewal, since the end of the civil
on Cities, People and Places (ICCPP 2015) on
and large cross-sections of citizens when war in 2009, has been the efficiency
the theme, “Towards a New Urbanity:
Places for Urban Coherence,” organised by
it comes to this aspect of urban habitation. of its implementation. For instance, the
the Department of Architecture, University In Colombo, such assumptions have renovation and transformation of colo-
of Moratuwa, in Colombo, Sri Lanka in reached almost a national consensus, nial heritage buildings in Colombo, such
October 2015. particularly among many middle-class as the Old Dutch Hospital and the former
Sasanka Perera (vicepresident-sperera@sau.int) individuals. But, how are these ideals Auditor General’s Office, and major
teaches at the Department of Sociology and is actually achieved on the ground and landscaping programmes, such as the
vice president at the South Asian University, how do they then manifest in people’s Diyatha Uyana wetland park develop-
New Delhi.
subconscious? What, if any, casualties ment scheme in Sri Jayawardenepura
26 DECEMBER 22, 2018 vol lIiI no 50 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
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Kotte and the Independence Square re- In fact, most hegemonic local discourses crucial, and an issue I will revisit later.
habilitation project in Colombo, took seem to suggest that in addition to the In this article, I will refer to the Dutch
place over a relatively short period of political actors and officials involved in Hospital, Colombo Racecourse Grand-
time (2011–14). The main reason for this these programmes, many ordinary citi- stand, Arcade Independence Square,
success was the establishment of the zens also greatly appreciate these trans- Diyatha Uyana, and Independence
Urban Development Authority—the apex formations. Many see these as essential Square Park developments as clear
state body responsible for urban deve- markers of “development” and as means examples of conscious urban restruc-
lopment—under the purview of the Min- to order, rationalise, and aesthetically turing. These are, of course, simply
istry of Defence in early 2010, and the develop their urban space. But, can this grounded references to larger theoreti-
military’s direct involvement in imple- process be understood as simply having cal implications in spatial politics.
menting many of these programmes, a linear trajectory of development, How, in theoretical terms, do each of
including the eviction of people from without contradictions? Were there no these specific sites make contextual
May 2010 onwards (CPA 2014: 8). These ruptures or contestations in the pro- sense as “places”? How does this mean-
programmes were primarily, but not cess? If there were, how did they then ing transform even as their physical ap-
exclusively, clustered under the Urban become invisible? pearance and local relevance are radi-
Regeneration Project and the Metro cally altered? Political actors, and unfor-
Colombo Urban Development Project. Politics of ‘Beautifying’ Colombo tunately too many architects and plan-
In understanding these dynamics, the The basic logic of this urban renewal ners working in unstable political condi-
personal passions, idiosyncrasies, and has been outlined by the former secre- tions, view “places” as empty or inconse-
limitations in the thinking of the former tary of defence in a number of public quential sites that must be transformed
secretary of defence, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, statements. According to him, it was a into “spaces” of consequence: by con-
cannot be underemphasised. Many of matter of developing “clean, green, structing iconic buildings, doing spec-
these programmes were his pet projects. people friendly cities” with a focus on tacular landscaping, or a combination of
In many ways, he was the uncompromis- “the development of public open spac- both. In other words, the transformations
ing Howard Roark of Ayn Rand’s imagi- es” (Rajapaksa 2013). Associated with are about imposing order, coherence,
nation, who declared: “I set my own this was the “demolition of walls around and an authorised sense of taste and
standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the public buildings, playgrounds and other meaning in a specific location. I do not
end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand public areas, which had kept many of consider “place” in this lean, simple,
at the beginning of one” (Sim 2001: 79). Colombo’s best architectural features ahistorical, and anti-discursive fashion.
The implications of these institutional hidden from public view for years” For me, a “place” is not simply a fixed
rearrangements and personality politics (Rajapaksa 2013). This developmental geographic location, nor is it a simple
for governance, democracy, and ethics rhetoric focused on recreating Colombo abstracted cartographic pointer.
are considerable; they remain, by and as a slum-free, “world class,” “garden Places are given meaning by those
large, unexplored in Sri Lankan social city,” and “a preferred destination for who inhabit them, make use of them, or
sciences in general, and particularly international business and tourism” have been expelled or distanced from
in Sri Lankan sociology. Efficiency in (Centre for Policy Alternatives 2014: 8). them. This meaning-making is based on
implementing urban development pro- In other words, there was a drive to multiple narratives, some of which are
jects notwithstanding, this process create an urban utopia from which audible and others not. As Keith Basso
has led to the militarisation of urban “problems” like poverty would be (1996: 56) underscores, “places come to
governance at the cost of serious “dem- spatially expelled. generate their own fields of meaning.”
ocratic deficits” (CPA 2014: 11–12).1 Finally, this phase of urban restruc- This is also what Margaret Rodman
Rajapaksa’s central role in these cir- turing also focused on “the restoration (1992: 652) meant when she argued that
cumstances cannot be adequately under- and rehabilitation of some of the coun- it would be possible to work out how
stood if one considers only the visible try’s old buildings” (Rajapaksa 2013), people embody places by examining how
end result in built form, without taking most of which date back to Dutch places represent people. But, silence, or
into account the circumstances that (1658–1796) and British colonial rule more accurately, the inaudibility of dis-
have been made invisible, which now (1796–1948). Rajapakasa had specifically sent, is also crucial to the process of
exist only in relatively dormant dis- identified the Dutch Hospital in the meaning-making. However, this aspect
courses away from these “beautified” Colombo Fort area and the Colombo is often disregarded in politically
urban spaces. These include forced evic- Racecourse Grandstand, and its environs dominant discourses on space.
tions of people from some of the areas in Reid Avenue, Colombo 7, as exam- Given the problematic transformation
selected for “beautification,” class-based ples of places that “have been renovat- of “place” into “space,” what can we
privileges in spatial allocation of the ed and transformed into public spaces understand about the ground reality in
newly developed spaces, and so on. Such housing high-end shopping and restau- Colombo, as seen in the case of the Dutch
considerations often do not come up in rant facilities” (Rajapaksa 2013). In this Hospital, old Auditor General’s Office, and
popular discourses on urban renewal. context, the definition of “high-end” is Racecourse Grandstand? These buildings
Economic & Political Weekly EPW DECEMBER 22, 2018 vol lIiI no 50 27
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stand testament to two distinct eras been motivated by a clear sense of people intersperse antique furniture and
of colonial rule and were dilapidated history, beyond a superficial apprecia- artefacts with modernist furniture in their
and poorly maintained structures until tion for the seeming elegance of the homes, and perhaps with postmodern
recently. Just like colonialism, the era facades of these buildings. artwork on their walls, without much
during which these structures were Theoretically, I do not see these as idea of their provenance. It seems that
established and glamourised, in a time historically grounded developments, but Colombo’s evolving urbanscape, primar-
now distant from collective memory, as hyperreal renditions of what is often ily initiated by the former secretary of
their stature as architectural structures considered flippantly as “development,” defence, reflects the limitations of the
with specific embedded histories has with an overemphasis on selected and country’s elite classes’ imagination of
been erased from the consciousness of privileged signs. More specifically, I the world.
the local people in more recent times. suggest that this was at least, in part, a
The structures remained very much in matter of acquiring a perceived European Consuming Public Spaces
their midst, as they had for centuries, field of signs in a non-European place, by But, what about the actual process
but people were emotionally unattached way of a haphazard dash to disconnected of consuming these spaces, given that
to them. moments from the colonial past. It was they were identified by the Ministry
As such, the resurrection and trans- also an attempt to create an ill-under- of Defence and Urban Development as
formation of these structures was almost stood European-like sensibility in a thor- “public spaces,” and earmarked for
a rediscovery of colonialism’s encounter oughly local and South Asian context. “housing high-end shopping and restau-
with the locale now known as Colombo, This is consistent with how many politi- rant facilities”? (Rajapaksa 2013) The
which at the height of colonial power, cal leaders in South Asia imagine the Arcade website explains this official em-
was transformed into what Nihal Perera possible resurrection of urban space. phasis on the economic and class stature
(2002) called a “white male city.” That This developmental move hearkens to of these developments with reference to
is, a city that was predicated upon the a very similar Europeanised dream for itself, which is equally applicable to all
needs and imagination of colonial white Delhi once entertained by Jagmohan, the other resurrected colonial buildings:
males. It was later adequately “femin- India’s former union minister for culture Arcade—Independence Square has been
ised,” as an essential aspect of its colonial and tourism. He wanted to displace created to fulfil a unique requirement. That
historical trajectory (Perera 2002). The nearly 75,000 slum dwellers from the is to create “one space” where entertain-
prevailing dominant discourse on urban banks of the river Yamuna and create a ment, shopping, leisure and dining can all be
offered to please the requirements of an en-
development also welcomes these resur- 220-acre park complex and an extended
tire family. The portfolio of brands that are
rected visual intrusions, in their rear- “green belt” as a zone of leisure for the present at the Arcade become a crowd puller
ranged colonial glory, and gives them city’s elite that would resemble “the for they are the most coveted global brands
centrality in the city’s built personality. South Bank of the Thames in London.” available. Furthermore, the many different
But, if, as Basso and Rodman suggest, This process has been referred to as the restaurants, theatres and the entertainment
opportunities laid out create a wonderful
places “generate their own fields of jazzing up of the Yamuna’s banks (Times
hang-out for the people. (Arcade Independ-
meaning” (Basso 1996: 56), and it is of India 2004). Again, the reference to ence Square 2014)
possible to interpret “how people em- a disconnected European sensibility,
body places by attempting to under- irrespective of local consequence, is The references to “one space,” “entire
stand how places represent people” readily apparent. In Delhi’s case, while family,” and “hang-out for the people”
(Rodman 1992: 652), what stories do many influential state and private do not reflect the typical Sri Lankan
these buildings narrate in the wake of structures in the floodplains of the family; not even a typical middle-class
their resurrection and the colonial Yamuna remained intact, the poor were one. Clearly, the Arcade, Racecourse
memories embedded in them? displaced as planned. But, the Yamuna Grandstand, and Dutch Hospital are not
By obsessively focusing on renovating is yet to recreate the atmosphere of the strictly “public” spaces, even though the
and presenting elegant colonial heritage Thames’ South Bank. public certainly does have legal access to
buildings to the public, what sense of In Sri Lanka, there is also the matter of them. Many students from the University
history was the Ministry of Defence and the unquestioning dependence on visu- of Colombo do not visit the Arcade or
Urban Development trying to bring into alising a particular set of aesthetics— Racecourse Grandstand, which are,
the present? This issue gets confusing derived from colonial structures—and after all, located within a walking dis-
but more intriguing when one considers the highlighting of an acquired sense of tance from the campus. Many of the stu-
the fact that the government spearhead- “taste,” as Pierre Bourdieu suggests (1987), dents I spoke to stated that they were
ing this developmental drive was known without adequately understanding their satisfied with cursory visits to take a
for its populist, anti-colonial, anti-impe- historical or political sensibilities. These few pictures of themselves posing in
rial, and anti-Western political rhetoric. structures are remnants of a forgotten front of the fancy storefronts to post
Neither the government nor the thou- history that have been haphazardly on social media, or just with careless
sands of people who later readily con- placed, as mere ornamental features, in glances while on their morning and
sumed these places appear to have the city’s bosom. This is not unlike how evening walks to and from their hostels
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or homes. People in these public spaces went from Colombo to Paris to study the and beyond that have extensively used
are not free from the pressure to over- processes of renovating heritage buildings landscaping can be considered “natural”
consume, or the potential social anxiety and who returned to undertake their spaces. Instead, as is quite evident in
of appearing poor in loudly proclaimed aesthetically wonderful work—have the case of Diyatha Uyana, they are open
affluent spaces. failed to learn the broader and more spaces in which the essence of nature
So, these structures are essentially nuanced social implications of public and natural embellishments have been
class and status enclaves, from which buildings from Paris or anywhere else. introduced, expanded, or enhanced. In
many people are left out, by virtue of an If, as Sally Ness (2005) has observed, these kinds of situations, the word
inherent atmosphere of exclusivity and places are “lived, event-defined, multi- “landscaping,” rather than “landscape,”
the associated social discomfort. In a locational happenings,” then these places highlights this change and transforma-
sense, in these postcolonial times, these can only be understood as elegant but tion. The landscaping of a place inher-
resurrected spaces recreate the exclusiv- exclusive zones, from which the ordi- ently presupposes a degree of transfor-
ist behaviour that was openly exercised nary has been expelled. How that ab- mation or displacement, as is obvious at
in many of these same places at the sence was engineered is one of the dis- the Sri Lankan sites I have referred to.
height of colonialism. Now, however, the courses that has been rendered invisible. The general area of Independence
methods and objects of exclusion have Since the “beautification” of Colombo Square has long been an open, public,
changed. Today, this exclusion is engi- also heavily emphasises the idea of land- and leisure space. The recent develop-
neered by locals against other locals. It scape, I will dwell briefly on the related ments creatively expanded this public
is not facilitated by law and political politics. According to the former secretary area by introducing parks and walk-
decree as in the colonial past, but by of defence, a Green Growth Programme ways, while keeping the Independence
factors such as affordability, pricing and was identified to “protect the marshy ar- Square the central locus; they also al-
an enhanced sense of social discomfort eas in the metro region, enhance its bio- lowed for breathing space in a somewhat
inherent in these spaces. It is ironic that diversity parks, reduce greenhouse gas congested part of Colombo. The newly
a regime that has spoken so much about emissions and improve the eco-friendly developed square was also a more wel-
winning a war and guaranteeing a sense nature of the city” (Rajapaksa 2013). By coming and open public space, where
of freedom to abstract subjects called itself, the idea is commendable. The Beira even students from Colombo University,
“people” never thought to designate any Lake project, Nawala Wetland Park, who were averse to the Arcade and
of these buildings as truly “public;” for Diyatha Uyana, and Independence Square the Grandstand, could easily “hang out.”
example, an affordable theatre, a muse- developments can be generally under- But, of course, they still could not bring
um focused on Colombo’s evolution, a stood as being a part of this scheme. their own food; the usually invisible
public gallery, a library, or a reading militarised regimentation of these places
centre to name a few possibilities. Idea of ‘Landscape’ becomes evident when guards inform
It is also not inconceivable for afford- In this context, I do not consider the idea people that the open consumption of
able restaurants, which would act as of “landscape” to simply refer to natural food as well as the public expression of
“true crowd pullers” (Arcade Independ- formations that evoke a certain aesthetic desire and affection is prohibited.
ence Square 2014), to be placed along- pleasure, even though this is the most The transformation of Diyatha Uyana
side more expensive ones. Every time I popular meaning of the word. My under- is embedded in a more complex set of
visit Paris, London, Uppsala, Amster- standing of landscape focuses on “recon- politics that are no longer visible nor
dam, Tokyo, or Delhi, I cannot help but struction, deconstruction, and all other part of the dominant discourse. The area
notice the dynamic role that affordable constructions of place” which lead to the that eventually became Diyatha Uyana
eateries and non-intimidating public “material transformation and pictorial was initially part of a sparsely inhabited
spaces located close to universities play encoding of a location” (Ness 2005: 120). wetland, which was later transformed
in the generation of discourse. As we As such, none of the sites in Colombo into a golf course and resort exclusively
well know, considerable thinking and
debate that led to significant ideas that Licensing by EPWI
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were initially discussed over coffee or EPW has licensed its material for non-exclusive use to only the following content aggregators—
tea in similar, non-intimidating public Contify, Factiva, Jstor, Magzter and Reliance Jio.
spaces and restaurants. Unfortunately, Contify currently disseminates EPW content to LexisNexis, Thomson Reuters, Securities.com,
these possibilities were not considered Gale Cengage, Acquiremedia News Bank and ProQuest.
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that the obviously skilled architects—who
Economic & Political Weekly EPW DECEMBER 22, 2018 vol lIiI no 50 29
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for the rich. After the state took over the 1999.2 According to the original plan decision to dismantle a post-independence
property in 2008, in accordance with a for the monument, which was never local political monument and erase its
Supreme Court decision, the buildings implemented, it was supposed to be memory in the resurrected and trans-
of the resort continued to function as located in the outlying wetlands, which formed site with its newly introduced
before. However, the rolling expanse of were to be developed and made into practices of leisure. Intriguingly, it was
the golf course was transformed into a a park quite similar to what Diyatha the same agency that simultaneously took
lush green park and was opened to the Uyana has now become. great care to resurrect colonial heritage
public in 2012. There were natural Due to the non-implementation of this buildings for their monumental value.
waterways in the vicinity that fed into overall plan and the lack of attention In other words, the landscaping of
the park, along with rest areas, walk- given to the upkeep of the monument, it Diyatha Uyana has led to a dissociation
ways, a more inviting restaurant, and a was neglected, and became generally from the pre-existing sense of place, as
weekend market. The opening up of a invisible to the public. Despite its rela- Sally Ness suggests (2005: 120).
once exclusive piece of land to the public tive invisibility, however, the monument The displacement that landscaping
was an important political decision. The remained an important marker of the causes is not, however, simply restricted
transformation of the place through country’s recent political history. During to the transformation of the place itself. It
landscaping, and the unrestricted public the implementation of the Diyatha Uyana entails a transformation in the experiences
access to the newly developed space, have park programme, it was entirely feasible of the people associated with this place,
been greatly appreciated by citizens. to incorporate the monument in the in tune with the material transforma-
However, during this process of trans- landscape, while still leaving adequate tions occurring around them, and the
formation, an important element of the space to accommodate other facilities scenic or differentially defined ordering
earlier landscape was dismantled and and structures that have since been of the place (Ness 2005: 120). As people
erased. This is, the “Shrine of the Inno- constructed. The refurbished monument flock to Diyatha Uyana for their morning or
cents,” an elegant but minimalist monu- would not only have been an elegant evening walks, or to eat, relax, or buy
ment designed by the artist and archae- component of Diyatha Uyana, but would potted plants on the weekends, the painful
ologist, Jagath Weerasinghe, in memory have held significant reference to Sri memory of a not-so-distant past, which the
of the victims of political violence of the Lanka’s recent political turmoil. same place once tried to commemorate,
late 1980s. The state built the monument Here, the Ministry of Defence and has disappeared like the morning mist.
and opened it to the public in December Urban Development made a clear political A specific new, and seemingly happier

EPW’s Special and Review Issues Published in 2017

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history devoid of contradictions has been many local professionals work in unsta- Notes
written and imposed on the land. It ap- ble political conditions, where profes- 1 When these ideas were initially presented at
the third International Conference on Cities,
pears that this rewritten history, which sional training and one’s personal con- People and Places (2015), there was considera-
is alienated from an uncomfortable col- science is made subservient to the reali- ble animosity among architects and urban
planners in the audience. The main complaint
lective conscience, has been embraced ties of political and physical survival.
was that issues of human rights should not be
by most people in and around the space. Stuart Jeffries, in a recent article on discussed in this context, because an impor-
the radical present-day transformation tant goal—the beautification of Colombo—
Concluding Comments was to be achieved efficiently. To do this, cer-
of early 20th-century Marseille, talks tain sacrifices had to be made. This sentiment
Before concluding, I will refer to one about how the city’s once-famed person- is common in Colombo, across class and ethno-
other silence that the overall discourse ality, messiness, smells, and even ugli- cultural boundaries.
2 A detailed analysis of the politics of this monu-
on Colombo’s beautification has brought ness that had inspired philosopher Wal- ment and its final disappearance is available in
about. A considerable number of people in ter Benjamin, have been replaced by a Chapter III (Remembering Death and Mourn-
ing the Loss of Innocence) of my book, Violence
areas such as Dematagoda, Slave Island, “sandblasted, primped and cultureified” and the Burden of Memory: Remembrance and
and so on have been displaced as a result version (Jeffries 2015). It seems that Erasure in Sinhala Consciousness (Perera 2016).
of the city beautification and the associ- what happened in Colombo after 2009 is
ated construction projects. Many of these also a kind of gentrification, with a References
people have not received adequate com- heavy emphasis on the needs and tastes Arcade Independence Square (2014): “Creating
pensation. According to publicly available of the city’s affluent population. In that Expressions of Freedom,” http://www.arcadein-
dependencesquare.com/about.php.
official estimates, the number of families to process, less affluent segments of the Basso, Keith (1996): “Wisdom Sits in Places,” Senses
be relocated or displaced, if the entire population were distanced from key of Place, Steven Feld and Keith H Basso (eds),
Santa Fe: School of American Research Press,
range of urban renewal programmes are public spaces by virtue of an institution-
pp 53–90.
implemented, vary from 70,000 to alised sense of exclusivity. In this con- Bourdieu, Pierre (1987): Distinction: A Social Cri-
1,35,000 (CPA 2014: 8). text, Fernando and Efroymson describe tique of the Judgement of Taste, Richard Nice
(trans), Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
A conservative calculation (assuming the newly emergent public spaces in Co- Press.
the average household size is 4.2) of the lombo as “excessively engineered and CPA (2014): Forced Evictions in Colombo: The
actual number of people to be relocated overly designed” and “inviting only a Ugly Face of Beautification, Centre for Policy
Alternatives, Colombo.
ranges from 2,80,000 to 5,00,000 certain income group” (Centre for Policy
Jeffries, Stuart (2015): “In Praise of Dirty, Sexy
(CPA 2014: 8). A relocation of people of Alternatives 2014: 16). Cities: The Urban World According to Walter
this magnitude in an urban space in Sri At the moment, my reading is that Sri Benjamin,” Guardian, 21 September, http://www.
theguardian.com/cities/2015/sep/21/walter-
Lanka has not been recorded in recent Lankan scholarship on urban space by benjamin-marseille-moscow-cities?CMP=
history. Further, the complexities and and large overemphasises technical and share_btn_fb#img-4.
challenges of this kind of displacement design considerations. Instead of this Ness, Sally Ann (2005): “Tourism–Terrorism: The
Landscaping of Consumption and the Darker
have not been accounted for, insofar as reductionist approach, this scholarship Side of Place,” American Ethnologist, Vol 32,
publicly available planning documents needs to incorporate a more nuanced No 1, pp 118–40.
indicate. It also does not seem to con- reading of evolving politics, mediated by Perera, Nihal (2002): “Feminizing the City: Gender
and Space in Colonial Colombo,” Trans Status
cern many people who wholeheartedly a robust understanding of architecture Subjects: Gender in the Globalization of South
support the city beautification process, and urban planning. At the same time, it and Southeast Asia, Sonita Sarker and Esha
Niyogi De (eds), Durham, NC: Duke University
without considering the collateral needs to be tempered with a self-con- Press.
damage. scious engagement with social theory Perera, Sasanka (2016): “Remembering Death and
So, what does all this mean in the and an in-depth understanding of con- Mourning the Loss of Innocence,” Violence and
the Burden of Memory: Remembrance and
context of this article’s assumptions? I textual history. Whether or not to create Erasure in Sinhala Consciousness, New Delhi:
have attempted to read “space as politi- such a body of scholarship is a decision Orient BlackSwan, pp 107–48.
cal text.” Within this, notions of “urban that contemporary scholars must make. Rajapaksa, Gotabaya (2013): “Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s
Speech on Urban Development,” presented at
coherence and order” can easily mani- Only the future will show us the intel- an event organised by Sri Lanka Association of
fest only if certain contestations are lectual cartographies these scholars and Software and Service Companies (SLASS-
COM), Colombo, Sri Lanka, March, http://
made invisible or inaudible. I have tried professionals will opt for; the paths they
www.yamu.lk/gotabaya-rajapaksas-speech-
to draw attention to some of these invis- take and those that they consciously on-urban-development/.
ible and inaudible issues. This becomes avoid; the roads they fear; the opportu- Rand, Ayn (1943): The Fountainhead, New York:
Bobbs-Merrill Company.
possible not in architecture or actual- nities lost; and maybe even the efforts of
Rodman, Margaret (1992): “Empowering Place:
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Sim, Stuart (ed) (2001): Routledge Companion to
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adequate space due to serious lapses in politics and nurtured by powerful political Times of India (2004): “Demolition Man Cometh
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