• Lineages of the Global City: Occult Modernism and the Spiritualization of Democracy
    Shiben Banerji
    University of Texas Press, 2021
    Shiben Banerji

Kora & Bhatt, “Vasantapuram—The Whole Scheme,” Bombay, India, 1924. Courtesy Adyar Library and Research Centre

Lineages of the Global City recuperates a neglected chapter of interwar history, examining urban design projects across Europe, the Americas, colonial South Asia, and Australia. Between 1905 and 1945, a transnational network of artists, architects, pacifists, and anti-colonials created cities, suburbs, and communes where the democratic ideal of fraternity could be infinitely expanded into a “universal brotherhood.” Informed by twentieth century occultisms, most notably Theosophy, the designers and thinkers at the center of this book—K.P.C. De Bazel, Hendrik C. Andersen, Paul Otlet, Le Corbusier, Annie Besant, Charles Frederick Weller, Marion Mahony, and Walter Burley Griffin—conceived of urban design as a method for cultivating a democratic subjectivity. Stylistically varied, their work was united by a rejection of aestheticism. Each of them produced urban form not for its own sake but as a prompt for feelings and sensations that constituted the subjective experience of becoming democratic.

Shiben Banerji is an assistant professor in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He received a doctorate in the history and theory of architecture and a master’s in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a bachelor’s from Columbia University. For his research on the transnational routes of modern urban design, Banerji received a Mellon Junior Fellowship in the Humanities, Urbanism, and Design initiative from the University of Pennsylvania; a William Bronson and Grayce Slovet Mitchell Award, and a Shapiro Center for Research and Collaboration grant from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. As an urban designer and planner, Banerji has sought to make Indian cities more equitable in his role as an associate director at the Urban Design Research Institute, a Research Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Urbanization Laboratory, and a Short Term Consultant at the World Bank.