Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action and Research

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over two years

PUKAR is an innovative and experimental initiative that aims to contribute to a global debate about urbanisation and globalisation.

Principal Investigator: Abhay Sardesai

This project involves the documentation of literary and cultural activity in the different languages spoken in Mumbai, both in order to create an archive of the city’s literary history as well as to facilitate translation between these languages.

PUKAR sees the project as rooted in and deriving relevance from a particular understanding of cosmopolitanism. They would like the project to underline the cosmopolitanism inherent in non-English literary practices and in the interaction between them. By emphasising an understanding of the cosmopolitan as that which involves an active collaboration between multiple cultural practices rather than the erasure of existing cultural markers, they are also attempting a re-examination of the very idea of cosmopolitanism and urban culture.

This particular project – concerning what they call Mumbai’s cosmopolitan archive – has grown out of a larger ongoing project called ‘Writing Across the City’. The latter project is more generally concerned with the various ‘cultures of writing’ in Mumbai – both literary and extra-literary – across different languages, forms and genres. The purpose of this project is to examine how writing contributes to the construction of a public sphere, by locating writers and writing within an urban setting.

This project is focused more specifically on the documentation of poetry, plays, fiction and theatre in nine languages – Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, English, Konkani, Telugu, Kannada, Urdu and Sindhi. The documentation will include information about individuals who write in these languages, literary societies, theatre groups and publishers; The grant will also enable the documentation of texts in these languages, and the compilation of material for the archive both language-wise and that which can be organised around themes relevant to cosmopolitanism.

PUKAR has so far set up a Translation Laboratory for Marathi. The purpose of such a Laboratory, which they eventually wish to set up for the other languages identified, is to institute a series of translation exercises, the results of which PUKAR itself would publish; they see this project, insofar as it enables the creation of a database, as a springboard for the setting up of these multilingual translation laboratories.

At the same time, the organisation feels that acts of translation are vital to the documentation project itself. They describe the project as a documentation exercise that is at the same time a theoretical argument about the nature of cosmopolitanism in the city. This component is vital to the project’s political significance and the statement it wishes to make about the value of an alternative cosmopolitan narrative.