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Accepted paper:

Aspirations

Author:

Vera Lazzaretti (Heidelberg University)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on research about the spatialisation of power and politics of heritage at the highly securitised Vishvanath temple and Gyan Vapi mosque compound in Varanasi (India), this paper explores the role of security in urban aspirations, imaginings and future making vis à vis idioms of heritage.

Paper long abstract:

In March 2017, the state government of Uttar Pradesh (India) began implementing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'dream project' around the famous Kashi Vishvanath temple in Banaras (Varanasi), a pan-Indian attraction thronged by thousands of Hindu pilgrims every day. The project's aspirations are to expand the temple domain, develop wide access paths and facilities for Hindu pilgrims and ultimately to create a 'new heritage zone'. The area also includes, however, the Gyan Vapi mosque, a historic structure that, during the campaign that led to the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya in 1992 by mobs of Hindu nationalists, was specified as one of the next places to be 'liberated' from the Muslim presence. Since the 1990s, then, the area has been heavily securitised: Hindu pilgrims and Muslim mosque frequenters alike are body-searched by security forces, watchtowers stand as high as the mosque minarets and the presence of police has become embedded in everyday life. Many commentators suggest that the aspirations of Modi's 'dream project' are potentially detrimental to the security of the Gyan Vapi mosque, as its disputed structure becomes more exposed and it is absorbed into a Hindu 'heritage zone'. This paper looks at security as an aspiration that informs urban imaginings and future making. I am particularly interested in exploring ways in which security discursively and materially intersects with idioms of heritage and heritage-making processes while contributing to shaping selective and exclusive spaces.

panel P116
The Future in Security: ethnographies of security at the edge of tomorrow [Anthropology of Security Network, ASN]