In the shadow of the cathedral: The production of urban landscapes, human environment interaction, and ruination in Velha Goa during Portuguese colonial occupation /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Wilson, Brian Christopher, author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (342 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
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Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: Kathleen Morrison Committee members: Shannon L. Dawdy; Mark Lycett; Francois Richard.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-02(E), Section: A.
Summary:Today, Velha Goa is a tiny village on the western coast of India 600 kilometers south of Mumbai. The village is surrounded by coconut plantations out of which rise majestic Catholic churches designated as world heritage monuments by UNESCO. Yet, as the former capital of the Portuguese colonial empire in Asia, this small village and its churches sit amongst the ruins of a large and once flourishing city. The extant historical literature characterizes Velha Goa as having been an impressive urban space until its dramatic decline in the mid-17th century. Nearly every account of the city proposes that this thriving capital's ruination and near total abandonment was due to disease and a failing economy. However, my dissertation research questions this received narrative. The evidence for continuous occupation amongst the urban 'ruins' of colonial empire suggests that alternative histories may be written.
I argue that historical narratives and other representations of the city reveal shared and somewhat consistent spatial imaginaries held by the colonial administration and colonial elite populations. However, by comparing tensions between elite conceptions of the city contained in the colonial archives with archaeological survey that reveals structural remains, changing land use patterns, and consumption practices, I expose alternative forms of spatial practice that were always influential in the production of the urban landscape. My research demonstrates that both the space and the people within it resisted the attempts by colonial administrators to produce particular forms of urbanism both during the floruit of the city and the period of its decline. The evidence for a vibrant and on-going occupation of the city thus forces us to rethink what is meant by 'decline' and 'ruin' and why similar narratives remain so influential in our contemporary world---especially as today these narratives continue to motivate urban revitalization plans and the gentrification of urban 'wastelands.'
These conceptualizations of urban spatial production and decline fit within commonplace, modern frameworks that separate nature/culture, rural/urban, and uncivilized/civilized, positioning urban landscapes as removed from the natural world because they are wholly human, formally constructed, and thus cultural places. I argue that these frameworks were considerably reinforced by European colonial encounters, which produced new understandings of human-environment interactions. I trace some of the earliest examples of the application of these developing spatial ideologies in Velha Goa, with a particular focus on the complex and changing nature of city governance and some of its resultant material manifestations. However, the physical changes in the urban landscape of Velha Goa over time reveal modes of existence that occur(ed) in opposition to and alongside dominant, elite spatial imaginaries---modes of existence and spatial production that were ultimately more enduring aspects of the city. The ability to examine the life and supposed decline of Velha Goa thus expands our knowledge of colonialism, urban history, and human-environment interactions. With over half the world's population now residing in cities, understanding the historical processes that lead to the creation and ruination of urban space is critical to reformulating contemporary engagements with urban landscapes, which still largely approach the city in terms of its opposition to the natural world while eliding populations and spatial practices that do not conform to dominant narratives of development and revitalization.