My Society: My Place - Understanding local level urban change in Indrachowk, Kathmandu
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An impulse to understand the transformations in the qualities and uses of the physical environment in Indrachowk, the historical core of traditional Kathmandu was the focus of my study. However, the issues of urban transformations could not be understood through the study of physical structures in itself. Like Lefebvre has said space is socially produced’, the research seeks to understand the urban spaces as the network of complex social practices (Shields, 2010). It is the conglomeration of economic resources, political power and in the historical cities like Kathmandu, religious expression (Toffin, 1991). All the societal changes are cemented in built environment. So, this study aims at understanding the urban transformation through networks of social practices. Understanding complex urban life, social relations and practices required subjective experience and individual’s interpretation. So, I spent two months in the field in gathering information regarding the changes that had happened in the qualities and uses of built environment in Indrachowk and its neighbourhood through observations, focused and selective interviews. As one of the participants, the study concerned on understanding the complex urban life through the changes in social practices and built environment. For that, the information thus collected were analysed through the framework developed by combining Moughtin et al. (2003)’s townscape analysis: legibility, permeability and visual analysis with four types of social interactions: competition, conflict, exchange and cooperate. The study found out that there was the reciprocity between the social practices and the qualities and uses of the physical settings in changing Indrachowk. The reciprocity expressed Indrachowk as urban space that facilitated multiuse, political power, subjective experience and spatial tactics. It was the concrete example of purposely built urban space for collective and social interactions. The study concluded that urban environment had to be looked through the lenses of social relations, economic claim, power relations and subjective experience. For that, one has to have good contextual knowledge through historical and local understanding. However, the study never attempted to undermine the importance of physical structures. Rather it aims at attributing to the existing approach to look at urban changes.