Between Enduring Urban Models and Shifting Cultural Trajectories

Unravelling Narratives on Ayodhyā and Bengaluru




Indian cities seem particularly prone to investigation through narrative both for the abundance of material about the origins and the development of urban centres from ancient to medieval times—which often contrasts with the relative scarceness of purely ‘historical’ data—and for the tendency to elaborate modern and contemporary “a posteriori narrative-myths” (Aravot 1995) through popular media such as cinema and television. Using methodological tools provided by research on narratives and analysing two case studies with reference to the cities of Ayodhyā and Bengaluru, the present paper investigates the processes and the dynamics by which narrations on cities are made to evolve. It builds on the conceptual frame provided by recent narratological scholarship, with a specific reference to the “increasing recognition of the ubiquity of narrative within any culture, in discursive practices as diverse as theology, historiography, economics, legal practice, political speech-making, everyday conversation and philosophy” (Rigney 1992: 263–264, italics in the original). Focusing on the ‘constructive’ aspect of narrative, seen as a discourse that intrinsically involves the active (and determinant) participation of the narrator, it argues that this perspective of analysis allows the researcher to interpret urban narratives eminently in political terms, or within relations of power—which also legitimizes the use of narrative materials for historical research. In broader terms, it contends that narration can give back structured information about the values and the practices which characterize a given society, and which are selectively communicated by the narrator(s); and that, in turn, this quality of ‘restoring’ structured information may shed more light on the inherent nature of narration itself and lead to further theorization both on its creative dynamics and its created artefacts. Practice of exploration of narration in a context of open communication with other disciplines may undoubtedly facilitate this process.

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How to Cite

Milanetti, Giorgio. 2015. “Between Enduring Urban Models and Shifting Cultural Trajectories: Unravelling Narratives on Ayodhyā and Bengaluru”. Cracow Indological Studies 17 (December):3-27.