GISSIG Talk Jan 8: Mumbai Freemap

Shekhar Krishnan, MIT: Mumbai Freemap: Mapping the Urban Environment in Colonial Bombay

When: Friday, January 8 at 3:00 p.m
Where: Baker Room at the Stanford Humanities Center

In social theory and ethnography, the “return of space” has foregrounded the environmental dimensions of urban power through a new critical geography. In the past ten years, a distinct “urban turn” the study of South Asian history has sought to rethink the role of cities such as Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta as more than just a physical container for colonial power, or discursive stage for nationalist politics. Between the narrative framework of nationalist history and the spatial history of cities in South Asia operate at different scales and periods.

My presentation will address this hiatus between narrative and spatial history in the context of my research on the urban environment in colonial Bombay and contemporary Mumbai in the twentieth century. I will discuss the challenges of tracing and archiving the historical geography of Bombay/Mumbai from 1914-2001, using layers of map imagery and geodata collected in my research on historical maps and contemporary plans, open source GIS and web mapping services.

SHEKHAR KRISHNAN is a doctoral candidate in the Program in Science Technology and Society (STS) at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) where he is researching the history of technology and the urban environment in Bombay and Western India from 1860-1950. For the past ten years he has been involved in urban research and community organizing in Mumbai as a founding coordinator then associate director of PUKAR (Partners for Urban Knowledge Action & Research) and currently as a founder member of CRIT (Collective Research Initiatives Trust). He is currently managing partner of Entropy Free LLC, a software consultancy which builds tools for digital humanities and the geospatial web. See his research blog at and the MIT Urban South Asia workshop at

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