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Film Screening and DiscussionFilm Screening and Discussion of Documentary “Survey City” with Sanjay Srivastava

On Wednesday, June 12, at 5 PM, a screening and discussion of SURVEY CITY (2024) will take place in the presence of anthropologist Prof. Dr. Sanjay Srivastava in room 400.02.12 at the HCTS. The event is jointly hosted by the Department of Visual and Media Anthropology at the HCTS and the South Asia Institute. All are welcome to attend.

Poster Survey City

About the film

Ayesha and her family live in a Delhi basti (informal settlement). She wants nothing more than to have security of tenure of her tiny house at the precarious edges of Delhi. There are always rumours of demolition as the land is classified as ‘illegally occupied’. Ayesha and her neighbours – who mostly collect materials for recycling – are always trying to work out ways of becoming permanent residents of a city in which they were born and have lived.
India’s capital, Delhi, is a highly unequal city. By various estimates, between 15-30% of the population lives on just 0.5% of the land in low-income informal settlements, the bastis. For basti residents, such as Ayesha, tenure security and access to legal title to land depends on inclusion in multiple government surveys that promise these. These promises most frequently arrive at election time.
However, though documents produced through surveys promise clarity and certainty to the urban poor, they are simultaneously part of confusing processes that are unclear to both those who are being documented and doing the documentation.
This film explores the human elements – fear, anxieties, hope, confusion – that surround the urban poor’s efforts to be good citizens and listen the state as it promises a better life through surveys and documentation. It also explores the frequently inexplicable nature of the state and its processes as it deals with those at the precarious edges of the city. The film focuses on the discovery of a set of survey-related document intended to provided security of tenure but was declared ‘lost’.
Between the lost document and their eventual discovery in a government office, lies the story of a locality, its people and mysterious relationships between government records and citizens. This is the story of Delhi’s Border basti.

About Sanjay Srivastava

Sanjay Srivastava is an anthropologist and British Academy Global Professor. His research is primarily focused on South Asia and spans across themes of urbanism and urban cultures, consumer cultures, the new-middle classes, masculinities, and new cultures of work. Srivastava’s individual and collaborative research projects include ‘Imagined Futures: Technology, Urban Planning and their Subjects at the Margins of an Indian Megapolis’; ‘Gendered Violence and Urban Transformations in India and South Africa’; ‘Religion and the City in India’; and ‘Learning from Small Cities: Governing Imagined Futures and the Dynamic of Change in India’s “Smart” Urban Age’. An interest in ethnographic film has led to collaborations with film-maker David MacDougall on ‘The Doon School Chronicles’ and ‘Kotla Walks. Performing Locality’ with Simon Wilmot.
Key publications include Masculinity and the Post-National Indian City. Neighbourhoods, Streets, Home and Consumerism (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2022); Entangled Urbanism. Slum, Gated Community and Shopping Mall in Delhi and Gurgaon (OUP, 2015); Passionate Modernity. Sexuality, Class and Consumption in India (Routledge, 2007); and Constructing Post-Colonial India. National Character and the Doon (Routledge, 1998). Srivastava is also an author of “Being Single in the City” (India and China), forthcoming with Heidelberg University Press, co-edited by Christiane Brosius and Jeroen de Kloet, with Laila Abu-Er-Rub and Melissa Butcher. 
Srivastava also worked with government bodies, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and International NGOs and provided academic analysis for gender-related policy making. I was co-author of a report for the Indian government on gendered violence and women’s safety on university campuses (The Saksham Report, 2013); Member of the Advisory Board, ‘Building Safe and Inclusive Cities for Women’, UN Women and Jagori; and author of ‘Masculinities and Power in the Asia-Pacific’ section of UNDPs Asia and the Pacific Human Development Report (2010). He continues to be associated with several groups that work at the interface of gender and policy, these include the Centre for Health and Social Justice (Delhi), SUTRA (Himachal Pradesh, India) and MenEngage Global.