Publication Type:



Raphael Susewind


Geoforum, Volume 109, p.67-77 (2020)



Public space comes under threat, is contested as much as shared, an arena for power and hegemony, leaving little hope for interaction across social divides. At the same time, each reincarnation of our fragmented public sphere necessarily builds on historical precedent, inadvertently inscribing public space with fresh hope as it expands the scope of the term’s original promise. Over time, this process creates iconic infrastructure such as the Rifah-e Aam Club, the “Club for the public good” in Lucknow, North India. From the initial stirrings of associational culture under British colonialism through key moments of the national movement down to today’s goonda raj, or rule of thugs, this unruly space came to host the most unlikely republic of letters, reuniting a public across time and space that often seems irredeemably fragmented. It is when buildings like this acquire a life of their own that cities realise their creative promise.