Philosophy of the City

In Europe, the city has been the epitome of civilization and a self-demarcation from the wild. Aristotle and later Thomas Hobbes view the city as a disciplined form of life, and those outside the city as barbaric. Later romantic wilderness narratives have contributed to the fetishization of nature. Even though the poles were reversed and the city was regarded as corrupt, the inherent dichotomy of the city and the wild remained. By contrast e.g. Indian philosophies do not strictly distinguish between the wild and the built environment. Traditionally, Indian cities have incorporated sacred groves, and there were widespread practices of foraging for food, medicinal and cosmetic plants. However, city planners in India have started discouraging these practices and reserving natural spaces in the city for recreational purposes only. This mimicry of Western modernist aesthetics excludes the urban poor and jeopardizes urban bio-diversity. Traditional Indian approaches to nature and culture should not be idealized either, since they were predicated on the cruel caste system. My project studies imaginaries of urban nature that have shaped cities around the world, with a current focus on Bengaluru, India.