Where is Jawaharlal Nehru University? Tracking Changes in India's Higher Education DevelopmentBerlin Geographical Papers
In recent years, the phenomenon of nationalism has evoked much attention when negotiating the institutional design of India’s universities. Justifiably rejecting the political project of naturalizing or essentializing the concepts of nation and nationhood, critical public and scientific discourse, however, often reduces nationalism to its symbolic or idealistic dimension. On the contrary, material structures of public institutional spaces have received little geographical attention when approaching national ideals, aspirations, conflicts, and controversies. This is despite the fact that constructed environments and spatial designs form a substantial link between the nation state of India and its public higher education in institutions. Arguing that space makes a difference, the paper in hand raises nationalism as a problem of simultaneous positioning. By tracking India’s higher education development through the example of Jawaharlal Nehru University campus space, I will not only focus on nationalism as a matter of symbol and categories of consciousness but also on the material dimensions of institutional design, namely building distribution, constructional aesthetics, and spatial accessibility. Thus, this work offers perspectives that extend beyond the idealization or demonization of the various notions of the Indian nation.