Heritage, urban studies and development

This cross-College research theme (College of Arts, College of Social Science, College of Science and Engineering) explores sustainability and resilience in urban contexts. There is a special focus on the challenges confronting heritage-minority communities in the context of their built environment, economic development, and well-being.

Heritage-minority communities can include people like the Hindu deity-sculptors of Kumartuli in Kolkata, and Siliguri (West Bengal, India) and of Dhaka and Barisal in Bangladesh; the tiny Baghdadi Jewish community of Kolkata, and other dwindling and declining diaspora peoples in that city, especially the Armenian and Chinese. There are also the Jewish heritage sites of Kerala. These are peoples and communities of a minority heritage that are not necessarily either ethnic minorities or cultural minorities: the challenges therefore present differently from those that affect ethnic and cultural minorities.

The objective of this theme is to bring together specialists in heritage, urban planning, development economics, environmental sustainability, disaster risk reduction, and migration studies. Our aim is to identify ways of enriching the existing research environment in heritage and urban studies, and to develop a sustainable University of Glasgow network in these fields from which new themes of collaborative research can emerge.

NEWS: In February 2022, Ophira Gamliel published a post on the British Library blog about her Endangered Archives project in North Kerala.

NEWS: With the news that UNESCO has inscribed Durga Puja in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity we are pleased to highlight the publication of The Making of Goddess Durga in Bengal: Art, Heritage and the Public (Singapore: Springer, 2021). See details below.


With the news that UNESCO has inscribed Durga Puja in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity we are pleased to highlight the publication of The Making of Goddess Durga in Bengal: Art, Heritage and the Public (Singapore: Springer, 2021). Access to the eBook is via the publisher  or through Glasgow University Library

The Making of Goddess Durga is the result of a small project co-ordinated by John Reuben Davies (University of Glasgow), Professor Samir Kumar Das and Dr Bishnupriya Basak (University of Calcutta), who also edited the book. The project was funded by Arts Lab and the University of Glasgow’s International Partnership Development Fund.

This collection of studies draws attention to the diverse questions and challenges arising from the art and heritage of Kumartuli, the Kolkata neighbourhood which forms the hub for the making of the pratimas (religious sculptures) at the heart of the religious festival. There is also a case study on the celebration of Durga Puja and other aspects of Bengali culture in Glasgow.

Resonating strongly with our Arts Lab Theme, ‘Heritage, Urban Studies and Development’, the focus of the book is not so much on cities but cityscapes; on genealogies as chance coincidences, conjunctures and accidents and not on a flat and linear history; on iconography not as a study in execution of scriptural formulations but on how innovations are continuously accommodated within a system of rules and vice versa; and finally on how the heritage of idol making brings the public into existence and on the intricate yet problematic relation that exists between the two.



Wednesday 4 November, 1200 to 1315 hrs 

  • John Reuben Davies (School of Humanities, College of Arts): The heritage-minority communities of Kolkata
  • Ophira Gamliel (School of Critical Studies, College of Arts): The lost Jew Town of Cochin
  • Preeti Dagar (School of Education, College of Social Sciences): Sustainable livelihoods and social integration through skills development for urban refugees

Can the increased visibility of cultural heritage – the entire gamut of performative elements, folklore, craft-lore, rituals – diminish the trauma and threats to cultural memory, belief-systems, and overall well-being that result from internal displacement and migration? How can fundamentally different heritage-minority communities survive – even grow – in a homogenising and identity-politicised urban world while also highlighting their diversity? What are the effects of intersecting gender, class, ethnic, racial and religious identities of refugees on their employment opportunities, social freedoms and livelihood outcomes? This workshop will address these and other questions in the context of Indian urban settings. Three short presentations will seek to stimulate further ideas, discussions and collaborative work.

To register, please email john.r.davies@glasgow.ac.uk



Thursday 10 December, 1500 to 1630 hrs

Joint event with the Urban Studies Seminar Series.

  • Dr Michael Rapport (University of Glasgow): Close-quarters Living, Tuberculosis and Urban Renewal in Belle Époque Paris
  • Dr Bishnupriya Basak (University of Calcutta): Kumartuli – the Making of Heritage, Art and Public in an Indian Cityscape
  • Professor Samir Kumar Das (University of Calcutta): Pandemic and Pratimashilpa: Negotiating Heritage in Times of Crisis

Register via https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/124291093005

For further details, go to


Associated Staff