"Thrown into the Jungle" – Experiences of Displacement and Disruption in Neoliberal India

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:45
Location: Marietta Blau Saal (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Jelena SALMI, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland
Ahmedabad, the most populous city in Gujarat state, is presented as a pioneer in urban development in India. Several beautification and infrastructure projects have been carried out in the city since the early 2000s to the advantage of the middle and upper classes. Ahmedabad's quest to become a 'world-class city' has resulted in large-scale displacement of the urban poor – city-center slums are depicted as nuisances that need to be removed in the name of sanitation and development. Slum demolitions are increasingly pushing the urban poor to the rural-urban interface where they are containerized in low-quality resettlement sites. The apartments in the resettlement sites have been allocated by a computer-generated random drawing of lots, breaking apart existing social networks of slums.  

This paper examines narratives of socio-spatial exclusion and marginalization in order to understand how resettled people construct and conceive their place in a world-class city. Drawing from ethnographic research in a multi-ethnic resettlement site located in eastern Ahmedabad, the paper explores how residents structure their relationship with the government and with each other using 'metaphors of marginalization' (Ramakrishnan 2014) and 'metaphors of difference'. Metaphors of marginalization – including those of 'dirt', 'jungle' and 'thrown away' – convey shared feelings of exclusion caused by displacement, while metaphors of difference – such as 'Pakistan', 'harami' and 'third class citizen' – are deployed to reproduce caste-based and religious divisions and to express moral superiority over new, unwanted neighbors. The paper takes a critical stance toward the local government's resettlement policy, arguing that lumping disparate populations together in 'plebeianized' (Chatterjee 2014) spaces has intensified the urban poors' experiences of marginalization, exclusion and uncertainty.