Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 295–316 | Cite as

Politics of archiving: hawkers and pavement dwellers in Calcutta

  • Ritajyoti BandyopadhyayEmail author


In the last decade, several influential scholars have rigorously worked on the impact of neoliberal globalization on the poor in the cities of the South. But they have yet to provide a comprehensive account of how and why some groups in the margins are seen to successfully negotiate with the new modes of governing populations and increase their visibility as a “category,” while some groups fail to do so. This paper seeks to bridge this research gap by comparing a successful and a failed mobilization in Calcutta. In both cases, use of the footpath has been central. The paper shows how the success of the hawkers in claiming the footpath is tied to the marginalization of the claims of the pavement dwellers that has (a) homogenized the representation of the footpath as only used by pedestrians and hawkers and (b) led to the elision of the pavement dwellers as a governmental category. The paper argues that by arrogating to themselves an archival function—which is conventionally associated with the governmental state—sections of population like the hawkers can become successful in their negotiations with the government.


Hawkers Pavement dwellers Footpath Democracy Archive Informal economy Governmentaliy 



This article is a part of the author’s ongoing PhD Dissertation titled ‘Negotiating Informality: Changing Faces of Footpaths of Kolkata, 1975-2005’. The project is funded by the SYLFF Programme (2006-2009), at Jadavpur University, SYLFF-FMP visiting grant at El Colegio de Mexico (2008), and Fulbright-Nehru Doctoral Fellowship (2009-2010) at University of California, Berkeley. The author is thankful to Samita Sen, Dwaipayan Bhattacharyya, Raka Ray, Ananya Roy, Joyashree Roy, Gautam Bhadra, Sibaji Bandyopadhyay, Partha Chatterjee, Anjan Ghosh, Bodhisattva Kar, Rajarshi Dasgupta, Ritwik Bhattacharya, Shaktiman Ghosh, Sudipta Maitra, Anup Sarkar, Carlos Alba Vega, Ishita Banerjee-Dube, Vinay Gidwani, Solomon Benjamin, Carol Upadhya, Anup Matilal for helping me develop my arguments in several ways. I am especially thankful to the three anonymous reviewers of Dialectical Anthropology and the editorial team for their insightful comments and technical assistance.


  1. Anjaria, J. 2008. Unruly streets everyday practices and promises of globality in Mumbai. Unpublished dissertation, University of California, Santa Cruz.Google Scholar
  2. Appadurai, A. 2002. Deep democracy: Urban governmentality and the horizon of politics. Public Culture 14(1): 21–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Axel, B. 2002. Introduction. In Historical anthropology and its futures: From the margins, ed. B. Axel. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bandyopadhyay, R. 2007. From public to Pablik: Elementary aspects of street politics in postcolonial Calcutta. Journal of the Indian Anthropological Society 42(3): 20–41.Google Scholar
  5. Bandyopadhyay, R. 2009a. Contentious Politics and Human Rights: Who Benefits? In 2007 SYLFF regional forum selected papers on human rights and creative leadership. Tokyo: The Tokyo Foundation Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bandyopadhyay, R. 2009b. Hawkers’ movement in Kolkata. Economic and Political Weekly 44(17): 116–119.Google Scholar
  7. Bandyopadhyay, R. 2009c. Archiving from below: The case of the mobilized hawkers in Calcutta. Sociological Research Online 14 (5).
  8. Bandyopadhyay, R. (2010). Negociaciones del Archivo: El Caso de Los Venderores Ambulantes en Calcutta. E studios de Asia y Africa 141 45(1): 41–68.Google Scholar
  9. Baviskar, A. 2003. Between violence and desire: Space, power, and identity in the making of metropolitan Delhi. International Social Science Journal 55(1): 89–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bayat, A. 2000. From ‘dangerous classes’ to quiet rebels: Politics of the urban subaltern in the global south. International Sociology 15(3): 533–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bayly, C.A. 1996. Empire and Information. Intelligence gathering and social communication in India, 1780–1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bhan, G. 2009. This is no longer the city I once knew’: Evictions, the urban poor and the right to the city in millennial Delhi. Environment and Urbanization 21(1): 127–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bhawmik, S. (ed). 2010. Street vendors in the global urban economy. New Delhi: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Castells, M. 1989. The informational city. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  15. Chatterjee, P. 2004. The politics of the governed: Reflections on popular politics in most of the world. New Delhi: Permanent Black.Google Scholar
  16. Chatterjee, P. 2008. Democracy and economic transformation in India. Economic and Political Weekly 43(16): 53–62.Google Scholar
  17. Clifford, J. 1990. Notes on (field) notes. In Fieldnotes: The makings of anthropology, ed. R. Sanjek. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Cross, J. 1998. Informal politics: Street vendors and the state in Mexico City. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Cross, J., and A. Morales (eds.). 2006. Street entrepreneurs: People, place and politics in local and global perspective. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Das, T.C. 1949. Bengal famine 1943. Google Scholar
  21. Donovan, Michael G. 2008. Informal cities and the contestation of public space: The case of Bogotá’s street vendors, 1988–2003. Urban Studies 45(1): 29–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Duneier, M. 1999. Sidewalk. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  23. Dutta, A. 2007. Space, sanitization and the press: The coverage of street vending in Kolkata. See.
  24. Elden, S. 2007. Government, territory, calculation. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25(3): 562–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fernandes, L. 2008. India’s new middle class: Democratic politics in an era of economic reform. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  26. Foucault, M. 1991. Governmentality. In The Foucault effect: Studies in governmentality, ed. G. Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Miller, 87–104. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Ghertner, D.A. 2010. Calculating without numbers: Aesthetic governmentality in Delhi’s slums. Economy and Society 39(2): 185–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gordon, C. 1991. Governmental rationality. In The Foucault effect: Studies in governmentality, ed. G. Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Miller. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  29. Government of India. 2004. National policy on urban street vendors (Draft Version), 1–10.Google Scholar
  30. Government of India. 2009. National policy on urban street vendors, 1–22.Google Scholar
  31. Hawker Sangram Committee. 2006. A brief chronology of the hawkers’ struggle from 19922004, 1–7.Google Scholar
  32. Hawker Sangram Committee. 2007. An initial report of the socio-economic study of hawkers or street vendors of Kolkata. Kolkata: Pratibandhi Udyog.Google Scholar
  33. Holston, J. 2008. Insurgent citizenship: Disjunctions of democracy and modernity in Brazil. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Inns, H.A. 1950. In Empire and communications, ed. David Godfrey. Victoria, BC: Press Porcepic, 1986.Google Scholar
  35. Jagannathan, V., and A. Halder. 1988a. Income-housing linkages: a case study of pavement dwellers in Calcutta. Economic and Political Weekly 23(23): 1175–1178.Google Scholar
  36. Jagannathan, V., and A. Halder. 1988b. A case study of pavement dwellers in Calcutta: Occupation, mobility and rural-urban linkages. Economic and Political Weekly 23(49): 2602–2605.Google Scholar
  37. Jagannathan, V., and A. Halder. 1989. A case study of pavement dwellers in Calcutta: Family characteristics of the urban poor. Economic and Political Weekly 24(6): 315–318.Google Scholar
  38. Jhabvala, R. 2010. Foreword. In Introduction: Street vendors in the global urban economy, ed. S. Bhawmik. New Delhi: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Lahiri, S.(ed.). 1997 Operation sunshine (in Bengali). Kolkata: Visvakosh Parishad.Google Scholar
  40. Legg, S. 2006. Governmentality, congestion and calculation in colonial Delhi. Social and Cultural Geography 7(5): 709–729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lévi-Strauss, C. 1966. The savage mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  42. Merry, S. 2002. Ethnography in the archives. In Practicing ethnography in law: New dialogues, enduring methods, ed. J. Starr, and M. Goodale, 128–142. New York: Palgrave/St. Martin’s.Google Scholar
  43. Mukherjee, S. 1975. Under the shadow of the metropolis: They are citizens too: A report on the survey of 10, 000 pavement dwellers in Calcutta. Calcutta: C.M.D.A. Publications.Google Scholar
  44. Nigam, A. 2008. Political society and the fable of primitive accumulation.
  45. Peluso, N.L. 1995. Whose woods are these? Counter-mapping Forest territories in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Antipode 27(4): 383–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Popke, E.Jeffrey, and R. Ballard. 2004. Dislocating modernity: Identity, space and representations of street trade in Durban, South Africa. Geoforum 35: 99–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Prahalad, C.K. 2004. The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid: Eradicating poverty through profits. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Wharton School Publishing.Google Scholar
  48. Pratibandhi Udyog. (2007). A pilot project survey report of street hawkers or vendors of Gariahat Road and Rashbehari Avenue in Kolkata. Kolkata: Pratibandhi Udyog.Google Scholar
  49. Rajagopal, A. 2001. The violence of commodity aesthetics: Hawkers, demolition raids, and a new regime of consumption. Social Text 19(3): 91–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Roy, A. 2002. City Requiem, Calcutta: Gender and the politics of poverty. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  51. Roy, A. 2004. The gentleman’s city: Urban informality in the Calcutta of new communism. In Urban informality, eds. N. AlSayyad and A. Roy, 147–170. Lexington: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  52. Roy, A. 2009. Civic governmentality: The politics of inclusion in Beirut and Mumbai. Antipode 41(1): 159–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sanyal, K. 2007. Rethinking capitalist development: Primitive accumulation, governmentality and post-colonial capitalism. New Delhi: Routledge.Google Scholar
  54. Sengupta, D. 2007. The refugee city: partition and Kolkata’s postcolonial landscape.
  55. Spivak, G. 1985. The Rani of Sirmur: An essay in reading the archives. History and Theory 24.Google Scholar
  56. Stillerman, J. 2006. The politics of space and culture in Santiago, Chile’s street markets. Qualitative Sociology 29: 507–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stoller, P. 1996. Spaces, places, and fields: The politics of West African trading in New York City’s informal economy. American Anthropologist 98(4): 776–788.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Stoller, P. 2002. Money has no smell: The Africanization of New York City. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social SciencesNational Institute of Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science CampusBangaloreIndia

Personalised recommendations