Critical Thinking

This in the city. Redevelopment is experienced through

This
paper explores the complex and contradictory politics of urban transformation in Mumbai
by focusing on the agency of slum residents displaced by redevelopment
projects. Ethnographic analysis of two cases of social mobilization on the
urban periphery reveals that differentiated subaltern subject formation
processes are crucial to whether and how global city tranformations and capital
accumulation advance in the city. Redevelopment is experienced through changing
class, gender, and ethnic relations and ideologies to constitute the “fatal
couplings of power and difference” (Gilmore 2002) that shape dispossession as
well the political practices of countering it. In one case, gendered
negotiations, participation, and ideals of domesticity in?uenced residents’
engagement with redevelopment in ways that enabled slum clearance and
resettlement but also exacerbated inequalities. In the second, articulations of
class and ethno-religious marginalization prompted alliance with other
displaced groups and resistance to evictions expressed through idioms of
citizenship. In both cases, NGOs and social movements mediated and partially
altered desires and modes of engagement with state agencies and other social
actors. Historically sedimented development practices, inequalities, and
discourses shaped the capacities and resources through which displaced groups
staked claims to the city. The political geography of Mankhurd appears to offer
an extreme or exceptional case in which eviction and resettlement are intimate
partners, juxtaposed and overlapping with each other. I argue, however, that
this frontier space offers a lens into how processes of accumulation and
dispossession are taking place throughout Mumbai. Neoliberal policies, state
agents, non-governmental groups, and discourses of improvement, legitimacy, and
belonging have engaged and excluded residents in urban redevelopment in
different ways throughout the neighborhoods of the city. At the same time, the
politics of the evicted are constantly pushing and reworking redevelopmental
state practice. For instance, protests and negotiations have led to
governmental promises of extending resettlement eligibility to a greater number
of Mumbai’s citizens. New national policies such as the Rajiv Awaaz Yojana offer
the possibility of public housing without reliance on market mechanisms or the
participation of developers and market incentives. Mediating groups and slum
residents have also altered their tactics. For instance, the SPARC Alliance and
slum-based leaders have recently undertaken a more critical approach to state
redevelopmentalism (Arputham and Patel 2010). NAPM has been involved in
negotiations and compromises with local and national state agents around new
resettlement options. Political strategies are thus never ?xed but constantly
changing depending on circumstances. As the city grows and infrastructure and
accessibility improve, expansion into currently devalued frontier neighborhoods
like Mankhurd may again threaten residents with displacement (Bhide 2009). It
remains to be seen how future con?gurations of force—including subaltern
political engagement—will in?uence development trajectories. In this paper, I
take seriously Harvey’s assertion that “the right to the city is far more than
the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change
ourselves by changing the city” (2008). However, I argue that radical
scholarshipmustpaymorerigorousattentiontotheoften-overlooked,differentiated
embodiments, meanings, and experiences of urban change that are at the heart of
such deep social transformations. In this regard, Mumbai’s redevelopment
politics offer more than a Third World case af?rming established theories of
global urbanization and accumulation by dispossession. It demonstrates that
just as primitive accumulation produces “an accumulation of differences and
divisions within the proletariat” that fundamentally molds class power through racialized
and gendered labor practices (Federici 2004:63), so too does redevelopment in
relation to land. Redevelopment produces difference and reworks class relations
through ethnicized and gendered displacement practices and experiences that in
turn fuel varied and unpredictable political movements. Similarities are
evident in other global struggles over dispossession ranging from the
property-ownership desires and racialized predatory lending practices
underpinning the US foreclosure crisis to eviction politics of multiply
dispossessed groups in the global South. In-depth examination of these
interconnected but distinct political processes “denaturalizes” dispossession
(Hart 2006), illuminating greater and hopefully more inclusive and promising
avenues for social justice.

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