"Hospitable Environments: The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and Green’s Hotel as Sites of Cultural Production in Bombay"

Rachel Lee

Arrival Cities. Migrating Artists and New Metropolitan Topographies in the 20th Century, edited by Burcu Dogramaci, Mareike Hetschold, Rachel Lee, Laura Karp Lugo, Helene Roth, Leuven University Press, 2020, pp. 249–268

This essay explores specific sites in Bombay in which collaborations and exchanges took place between locals and exiles, where discourses developed and where art was exhibited. Within the realm of informal places that functioned as spaces of sociability – urban locations where diverse people could meet and share ideas – it investigates a largely overlooked typology: the hotel. Drawing on diverse sources, including guidebooks, newspapers, travelogues, and novels as well as archives, this essay constructs an argument for considering hotels as significant spaces of sociability that contributed to the cultural life of the local inhabitants as well as providing accommodation to transient visitors to the city. Focusing on two of Bombay’s prominent hotels – the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and Green’s Hotel – it outlines the ways in which they fostered culture, generated intellectual discourse and supported the local art scene. By anchoring the exiled and local artists to the activities in the hotels, it makes a case for conceiving of hotels as contact zones. Finally, it considers whether Bombay presents an exceptional case or whether similar situations can be found in other colonial or postcolonial environments.