Of Mills and Malls: The Future of Urban Industrial Heritage in Neoliberal Mumbai


The mandate of historic preservation is to maintain vestiges of diverse cultural heritage, a task that is becoming increasingly difficult in rapidly globalizing India. Much of the country's urban heritage outside of the "monument-and-site" framework is threatened by massive restructuring of cities facilitated by neoliberal urban policies. Mumbai has a rich cultural heritage, associated with diverse sociocultural and economic groups. Much of this is threatened by development practices pursued by various forces with a particular vision of Mumbai as an emerging "global city." In this work Chalana examines Girangaon, an early industrial district of Mumbai, currently being transformed by forces of domestic and global capital. He argues that Girangaon's urban industrial heritage is a significant piece of the city's development history, which future visions of a global metropolis should embrace. While the expansion of Mumbai's economy has benefited some avenues of preservation practice in Mumbai, in Girangaon its consequences have also been negative, as a working-class neighborhood is restructured into a hypermodern district for the elite. The current forms of preservation practice in the city have been insufficient in addressing the complexity around managing heritage in low-income neighborhoods. Girangaon, and Mumbai overall, reveal the many ways that economic, cultural, and political globalization can impact historic preservation practice.