Advertisement

Studies in Comparative International Development

, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 343–364 | Cite as

Informal Archives: Historical Narratives and the Preservation of Paper in India’s Urban Slums

  • Adam Michael AuerbachEmail author
Article

Abstract

Historical research is challenging when studying informal spaces like urban slums, where extant scholarship is limited, government data are sparse or absent, and populations change rapidly due to eviction, environmental shocks, and the everyday churn of migration. Moreover, written materials and political ephemera generated within slums are rarely preserved in accessible state archives, limiting the usefulness of conventional archival research. In such contexts, the discovery of informal archives—unmapped, non-systematized collections of materials kept by individuals and groups in the spaces under study—can contribute to the reconstruction of local histories. This article draws on 20 months of fieldwork in India’s urban slums to offer insights on the collection and use of informal archival materials. These materials afford an intimate look at how the urban poor organize and make claims on the state. Their analysis, however, involves inferential challenges. Researchers must consider how processes of production, preservation, and provision shape the content of gathered historical materials and thus the inferences that can be drawn from them. Beyond urban slums, informal archives are likely to be useful sources of historical data for a range of studies in comparative politics, especially those that focus on informal institutions and local quotidian politics.

Keywords

Urban slums Informal institutions Archival research India 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I thank Leonardo Arriola, Jennifer Bussell, Erin Collins, Keith Darden, Daniel Esser, Carolyn Gallaher, Shelby Grossman, Kyle Hanniman, Alisha Holland, Adrienne LeBas, Jordanna Matlon, Alison Post, Benjamin Read, Diane Singerman, Tariq Thachil, Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro, and seminar participants at American University, the University of California-Berkeley, and Queen’s University, Canada, for their valuable comments on this article. The Fulbright-Hays Program, National Science Foundation, and Social Science Research Council supported the fieldwork on which this article is based. The IRB protocols associated with this study are SE-2010-0376 (University of Wisconsin) and 15098 (American University).

References

  1. Agarwala R. Informal labor, formal politics, and dignified discontent in India. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2014.Google Scholar
  2. Agrawal A. Environmentality: community, intimate government, and the making of environmental subjects in Kumaon, India. Curr Anthropol. 2005;46(2):161–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amin S. Event, metaphor, memory. Berkeley: University of California Press; 1995.Google Scholar
  4. Auerbach AM. Clients and communities. World Politics. 2016;68(1):111–48.Google Scholar
  5. Auerbach AM. Neighborhood associations and the urban poor: India’s slum development committees. World Development. 2017;96:119–35Google Scholar
  6. Auerbach AM, Thachil T. How clients select brokers: competition and choice in India’s slums. American Political Science Review. 2018.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S000305541800028X.
  7. Auyero J. Poor people’s politics. Durham: Duke University Press; 2001.Google Scholar
  8. Barnes S. Patrons and power. Bloomington: Indiana University Press; 1986.Google Scholar
  9. Bates R, Greif A, Levi M, Rosenthal J-L. Analytic narratives. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 1998.Google Scholar
  10. Bennett A, Checkel J. Process tracing. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Björkman L. Pipe politics, contested waters. Durham: Duke University Press; 2015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Blouin F, Rosenberg W. Processing the past. New York: Oxford University Press; 2011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Burgwal G. Struggle of the poor. Amsterdam: CEDLA; 1995.Google Scholar
  14. Burton A. Archival stories. Durham: Duke University Press; 2005.Google Scholar
  15. Büthe T. Taking temporality seriously. American Political Science Review. 2002;96(3):481–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Büthe T, Jacobs A. Introduction to the symposium. Qualitative and Multi-Method Research Newsletter. 2015;13(1):2–8.Google Scholar
  17. Census of India. Primary census abstract for slums. New Delhi: Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner; 2011.Google Scholar
  18. Chakrabarty D. Conditions for knowledge of working-class conditions. In: Guha R, editor. Subaltern studies II. New York: Oxford University Press; 1983.Google Scholar
  19. Chatterjee P. The politics of the governed. New York: Columbia University Press; 2004.Google Scholar
  20. Cohen B. An anthropologist among historians and other essays. New York: Oxford University Press; 1988.Google Scholar
  21. Collier D. Squatters and oligarchs. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1976.Google Scholar
  22. Cornelius W. Politics and the migrant poor in Mexico City. Stanford: Stanford University Press; 1975.Google Scholar
  23. Cronin-Furman K, Lake M. Ethics abroad. PS: political science and politics, forthcoming; 2017.Google Scholar
  24. Das V. State, citizenship, and the urban poor. Citizenship Studies. 2011;15:319–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Das V, Walton M. Political leadership and the urban poor. Curr Anthropol. 2015;56(11):S44–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Derrida J. Archive fever. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1998Google Scholar
  27. De Wit J. Poverty, policy, and politics in madras slums. Delhi: Sage Publications; 1997.Google Scholar
  28. Dirks N. Autobiography of an archive. New York: Columbia University Press; 2015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Elman C, Kapiszewski D. Data access and research transparency in the qualitative tradition. PS: Political Science & Politics. 2014;47(1):43–47.Google Scholar
  30. Fischer B. A poverty of rights. Stanford: Stanford University Press; 2008.Google Scholar
  31. Foucault M. The archaeology of knowledge. New York: Pantheon; 1972.Google Scholar
  32. Frisch S, Harris D, Kelly S, Parker D. Doing archival research in political science. Amherst: Cambria; 2012.Google Scholar
  33. Gay R. Popular organization and democracy in Rio de Janeiro. Philadelphia: Temple University Press; 1993.Google Scholar
  34. Gerring J. Mere description. Br J Polit Sci. 2012;42:721–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gooptu N. The politics of the urban poor in early twentieth-century India. Cambridge: New York; 2001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Grossman S. The politics of order in informal markets. Book Manuscript; 2017Google Scholar
  37. Grzymala-Busse A. Time will tell? Comparative Political Studies. 2010;44:1267–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Guha R. Subaltern studies I. New York: Oxford University Press; 1982.Google Scholar
  39. Gupta A. Red tape. Durham: Duke University Press; 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Heller P, Mukhopadhyay P, Banda S, Sheikh S. Exclusion, informality, and predation in the cities of Delhi. Centre for Policy Research; 2015.Google Scholar
  41. Holland A. The squatters’ records. In: Research Note, Harvard University; 2012.Google Scholar
  42. Holland A. Forbearance. American Political Science Review. 2016;110(2):232–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hull M. Government of paper. Berkeley: University of California Press; 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Hyun C, Post A, Ray I. Frontline worker compliance with transparency reform. Governance. 2017:1–18.Google Scholar
  45. Jha S, Rao V, Woolcock M. Governance in the gullies. World Dev. 2007;35(2):230–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Jourde C. The ethnographic sensibility. In Political ethnography by Edward Schatz ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 2009Google Scholar
  47. Kapiszewski D, MacLean L, Read B. Field research in political science. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Krishna A. Stuck in place. J Dev Stud. 2013;49(7):1010–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Koster M, de Vries P. Slum politics. Focaal. 2012;62:83–98.Google Scholar
  50. Lee A. How (and how not) to use archival sources for hypothesis testing. Working Paper, University of Rochester; 2015Google Scholar
  51. Lustick I. History, historiography, and political science. Am Polit Sci Rev. 1996;90(3):605–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. MacLean L. Informal institutions and citizenship in rural Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2014.Google Scholar
  53. Manoff M. Theories of the archive from across the disciplines. Libr Acad. 2004;4(1):9–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Marx B, Stoker T, Suri T. The economics of slums in the developing world. J Econ Perspect. 2013;27(4):187–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Mayaram S. Against history, against state. New York: Columbia University Press; 2003.Google Scholar
  56. McCann B. Hard times in the Marvelous City. Durham: Duke University Press; 2014.Google Scholar
  57. Mishra A, Dasgupta S. Evolution of national policies for basic services, affordable housing and livelihoods for the urban poor. In: Inclusive urban planning: state of the urban poor report 2013. Delhi: Oxford University Press; 2013.Google Scholar
  58. Nunn N. The importance of history for economic development. Annual Review of Economics. 2009;1:65–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Pandey G. Un-archived histories. New York: Routledge; 2013.Google Scholar
  60. Pandey G. Routine violence. Stanford: Stanford University Press; 2005.Google Scholar
  61. Rains E, Krishna A, Wibbels E. Urbanization and India’s slum continuum. International Growth Center Working Paper (C-35309-INC-1); 2018.Google Scholar
  62. Ray T. Politics of the barrios of Venezuela. Berkeley: University of California Press; 1969.Google Scholar
  63. Rodden J. Back to the future. In: Comparative politics. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2009.Google Scholar
  64. Roy A. City Requiem, Calcutta. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; 2003.Google Scholar
  65. Roy A. Why India cannot plan its cities. Planning Theory. 2009;8(1):76–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Resnick D. Urban poverty and party populism in African democracies. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Schwartz J, Cook T. Archives, records, and power. Arch Sci. 2002;2:1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Scott J. Domination and the arts of resistance. New Haven: Yale University Press; 1992.Google Scholar
  69. Shefner J. The illusion of civil society. University Park: Penn State University Press; 2008Google Scholar
  70. Slater D, Simmons E. Informative regress. Comp Polit Stud. 2010;43(7):886–917.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Soifer H. The causal logic of critical junctures. Comparative Political Studies. 2012;45(12):1572–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Spivak G. Can the subaltern speak? In: Marxism and the interpretation of culture. London: MacMillan; 1988.Google Scholar
  73. Srivastava S. Duplicity, intimacy, community. Thesis Eleven. 2012;113(1):78–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Stokes S. Cultures in conflict. Berkeley: University of California Press; 1995.Google Scholar
  75. Stokes S, Dunning T, Nazareno M, Brusco V. Brokers, voters, and clientelism. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Stoler A. Colonial archives and the arts of governance. Arch Sci. 2002;2:87–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Stoler A. Along the archival grain. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 2010.Google Scholar
  78. Tarlo E. “Paper truths.” The everyday state in modern India (edited by C.J. Fuller and Veronique Benei). London: Hurst and Company; 2001Google Scholar
  79. Tarlo E. Unsettling memories. Berkeley: University of California Press; 2003.Google Scholar
  80. Thachil T. Do rural migrants divide ethnically in the city? Am J Polit Sci. 2017;61(4):908–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Trachtenberg M. The craft of international history. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 2006.Google Scholar
  82. UN-Habitat. Survey of slum and squatter settlements. Dublin: Tycooly International; 1982.Google Scholar
  83. UN-Habitat. The challenge of slums. London: Earthscan; 2003.Google Scholar
  84. UN-Habitat. State of the world’s cities. London: Earthscan; 2013.Google Scholar
  85. Varshney A. Ethnic conflict and civic life. New Haven: Yale University Press; 2003.Google Scholar
  86. Weitz-Shapiro R. Curbing clientelism in Argentina. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2016.Google Scholar
  87. Wood E. The ethical challenges of field research in conflict zones. Qual Sociol. 2006;29:373–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Woolcock M, Szreter S, Rao V. How and why does history matter for development policy? J Dev Stud. 2011;47(1):70–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of International ServiceAmerican UniversityWashington, DCUSA

Personalised recommendations