The City Resists: Questioning Infrastructural Reconfigurations in Bombay

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Adwaita BANERJEE, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action, India
In south-east Asian urban centres, gentrification, urban development, pressures of capital, together with broader neoliberal trends have led to hardships, precarity and displacement for the urban poor and working classes, especially in terms of eviction and access to infrastructure. Poor urban residents are increasingly evicted into informal settlements.

This paper tries building on current conceptualizations of the term eviction as contextualized within the socio spatial complexities in the marginal communities of Mumbai, India. Through ethnographic practices set within a slum settlement in Mumbai, the research tries to investigate the practices of resistance in the face of infrastructural transformations. While making use of a critical geographies methodology, the work is mainly concerned with the concept of eviction at an everyday experiential level in the micro-spaces of everyday life.

I explore the structures through which people resist the transformations and the unmet expectations of urban citizenship, that plays out in the everyday. Cresswell (1997:343) writes, “the geographical interpretations of metaphors as they are thought and acted out in the realms of politics and ideology can do much to delineate the praxis of everyday life”. The objective of the paper is to theorize eviction in terms of repeated metaphors within the respondent’s collective unconscious and secondly to contribute to the growing literature of marginalised experiences of uncertainty and waiting (Yiftachel 2009; Datta 2012; Auyero 2011) through a focus on the infrastructural and spatial anxieties of those displaced.

The concepts of eviction and infrastructural transformation are looked at from a critical geographies perspective with a particular emphasis on caste/class experiences in making evictions an everyday imagination. Making my way through the daily spaces and routine situations I try to document how infrastructural resistance is embedded in the domesticities. Unpacking these metaphors of transformation can help us theorise and problematise the spaces of urban transformation.