ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Security, heritage and future-making: Exploring the nexus through ethnographic insights from urban north India


Lazzaretti Vera - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), Centre for Research in Anthropology, Lisboa, Portugal


53 – Security and heritage in the making of urban futures: Insights from South Asia and its diasporas – Merged into panel n. 47 – Recent Cultural Heritage Initiatives in Nepal and the Himalayas


 Drawing on longitudinal research in Banaras (Varanasi), this paper unpacks the genesis and implementation of the ambitious Kashi Vishvanath Corridor to examine Hindu majoritarian projections of urban future. The Corridor is promoted in government narratives as both an urban rejuvenation and a heritage conservation project and features as a prominent achievement in the so-called vikas yatra, or development journey, that the ‘timeless’ city is undertaking, having been the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi since 2014. The Corridor is to some extent a straightforward materialisation of Hindu majoritarian urban imaginaries. However, I suggest that the future it emplaces has been enabled over time through the cross-fertilisation and combined mobilisation of the registers, aesthetics and materialities of both security and heritage. I discuss ethnographic material collected before, during and after the implementation of the Corridor and draw on a critical analysis of local Hindi newspapers to show that security first and heritage second (and in combination with security), have been activated as practices of ‘futuring’, or future-making, thus paving the way for the Corridor. At the same time, I show that registers, aesthetics and materialities of heritage and security do not originally and solely emerge as the state’s tools in superimposing a top-down vision of urban future, but become so through twisting and perhaps unexpected paths