Inaugural Lecture: Fast Urbanism: Between Speed, Time and Urban Futures

The contemporary trend of rapid urbanisation has incorporated speed into our new societies. Specifically, the speed at which we, as individuals, can complete various tasks. For example, being able to get from point A to point B; or, from a more technological viewpoint, the speed at which we can access online services.

While positive changes can be observed across the world, India, and the ‘Smart City’ initiative, has highlighted that not everyone benefits from these fast urbanisms. As such, India has been the subject of a majority of Professor Ayona Datta’s research.

An architect by training, Ayona recognised from an early stage the importance of social dynamics beyond and in addition to urban designs, especially for those left behind in the wake of rapid modernisation. In India, this has manifested itself in the already impoverished, but especially in women. Already historically limited to the peripheries of knowledge, these groups have become increasingly marginalised. While being connected through digital infrastructures, the existing weak and failing urban infrastructures places them at a disadvantage.   

Throughout her career, Ayona has tied her research across themes of Postcolonial and Feminist Urban Futures in addition to Smart Cities and the present Digital Urban Age. Through these, she has been internationally recognised by prestigious institutions such as the UN and the Royal Geographical Society.

Furthermore, her research has been linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals – leading to a practical impact in which her work has been instrumental in empowering women through knowledge. This impact can be seen through varied research outputs, which includes a music video, Khadar Girls, which was shown at the end of the lecture.

Ayona’s work, however, is not limited to her efforts in India. Rather, she has additionally investigated Eastern European workers in London, Emergency Shelters in Arizona, Gated Communities in Izmir, amongst other varied topics.

Ayona brings her expertise to UCL, an institution that is rich in urban studies. Congratulations and a very warm welcome to you, Ayona!

Ayona’s work can be followed mainly on her website: https://ayonadatta.com/, as well as twitter: @AyonaDatta.

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