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Faculty Seminar | Marking the Market : Municipalizing Calcutta’s Spaces of Exchange

The Faculty Seminar was held on September 8, 2021.


Dr. Anwesha Ghosh, Assistant Professor, History, NLSIU


This paper highlights the role of the Municipal Corporation in Calcutta’s urban development in the second half of the nineteenth century. Specifically, it focuses on the aspect of “modernisation” as evident in the transformation of Calcutta’s prosperous Dhurrumtollah Bazaar into the city’s first municipal market. The paper discusses the multiform technologies of governance deployed by the municipality (municipal governmentality) in this elaborate task of improving Calcutta’s built environment. It argues that beneath the municipality’s grandiose sanitisation and beautification plans lay a more intricate arrangement of disciplining and economizing “errant” and “corrupt” bazaar economies to conform to the logic of the modern market. Using Market Committee Reports and contemporary literary fiction as chief primary sources, ‘Marking the Market’ is an invitation to rethink questions of modernity and informality — two popular themes in colonialist historiography — not as mutually exclusive but rather as co-constitutive categories.