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Toward a Geography of Breath in Postcolonial Delhi


Asher Ghertner is an Associate Professor in the Geography Department at Rutgers University. His research uses the contemporary politics of urban renewal in India to challenge conventional theories of economic transition, city planning, and political rule. His first book, Rule by Aesthetics: World-Class City Making in Delhi (Oxford University Press, 2015) is based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork on mass slum demolitions in Delhi, India. It uses aspirational efforts to transform Delhi into a world-class city to show how aesthetic norms can replace the procedures of mapping and surveying typically considered necessary to govern space. A new book project, tentatively titled “Bad Air: Life Exposed in the Climate of Crisis,” uses the challenges of extreme air pollution exposure in Delhi, “the world’s most air-polluted city” (WHO 2014), to expose the ethics of the Anthropocene to the challenge of postcolonial justice.  The book asks how new patterns in urban planning call for an atmospheric reconsideration of the city. Individual chapters focus, inter alia, on the history of racialized pulmonary medicine, the extension of residential models of segregation into new “premium atmospheres” in gated communities, the city as air conditioner, and new claims to atmospheric citizenship.