Informality and the Forging of an Assemblage Urbanism in the Indian City of Patna

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:45 AM
Room: 311+312
Distributed Paper
Aditya MOHANTY , UrbanLab (UCL) and HSS (IIT-K), Central University of Bihar, Patna, India
Right from the Almrita Patel case of branding slums as public nuisance (Ghertner 2001) to the conceptualisation of slums as sites of ‘deep democracy’ (Appadurai 2001), critical urban scholarship on the Indian city acknowledges the resilience of ‘informality as a way of life’ (Roy 2004) in the Global South. In another vein, slums have often been considered as a patchwork wherein the hegemonic construct of the aesthetic urban space of the new bourgeoisie persuades urban planners to cleanse slums off the map of neo-liberal cities (Baviskar 2011). In fact in recent times, processes of urbanization in the Global South seem to have engendered shifting patterns of formalization and informalization so much that new logics for claim-making has re-invigorated the very salience of ‘splintering urbanism’ (Graham and Marvin 2001) .

It is in this context that the proposed paper shall elucidate upon these issues by presenting a comparative ethnographic vignette of one in situ rehabilitated and another displacement-induced rehabilitated slum site in the Indian city of Patna. The key templates of assessing the resultant assemblages within such an formal/informal labyrinth are: (a) the economy-induced exigencies of translocation and (b) the graying of formal spaces of habitation. Most importantly these elucidate upon the role that circuits of materiality play in re-configuring the very imbrications within the formal vs informal dichotomy. Lastly in so doing, the paper squints at the emergent forms of urban citizenship, by catapulting the understanding of the formal/informal labyrinth from the ‘political economy’ framework to that of, what may otherwise be termed as, an ‘assemblage urbanism’. In other words, the paper probes into the ways in which stratagems for urban renewal array in the right mix of communitarian ethos, historical circumstance and political location, so as to make it possible for agency to effectively mutate itself!