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A City for Whom? Marginalization and the Production of Space in Contemporary Bangalore, India

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Abstract

As the locus of urbanization moves Southward, dynamics of city-making are rapidly shifting. In the context of India which has experienced pronounced urban shifts since the 1990s, this chapter draws upon one specific case of a slum eviction in Bangalore, asking what it can tell us about the way urban development is being carried out in the city. Via qualitative methods of semi-structured interviewing, discourse analysis and spatial mapping, it examines the actors, instruments and structures which control, produce, negotiate and contest urban space. It suggests that the model of development the case reflects is characterized by democratic deficit in governance and endemic informality which is fueling and perpetuating socio-spatial polarization. This creates challenges for sustainable urban development as Bangalore’s vulnerable residents are excluded on fundamental grounds. Apart from the insights acquired on the eviction case, the contribution also reflects on the added value of combining different research methods to elicit the impacts of the eviction on slum dwellers’ quality of life, in particular with regard to their ability to meaningfully engage in governance processes which mediate the production of space.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    It is important to note the sensitivities associated with the nomenclature around such settlement areas. Gilbert (2007) has problematised usage of the word “slum” due to its negative connotations, which can in turn legitimise the demolition of slums in order to “help” inhabitants. However, following Kuffer et al. (2016), we utilise the word as the term slum explicitly expresses physical characteristics such as high density and/or irregularity, as opposed to other popular terminology such as ‘informal settlement’ which also implies the legal tenure status of an area. Said physical characteristics follow the UN Habitat definition of slum, which includes inadequate access to safe water, sanitation and other infrastructure, poor structural quality of housing and overcrowding (UN Habitat 2003). “Slum” can also be an empowering term, in a similar sense to how the word “Dalit” has been reclaimed. As Rao (2009, p. 1) explains, “to call oneself a Dalit, meaning ‘ground down,’ ‘broken to pieces,’ ‘crushed,’ is to convert a negative description into a confrontational identity and to become a particular sort of political subject for whom the terms of exclusion on which discrimination is premised are at once refused and reproduced in the demands for inclusion.”

  2. 2.

    Correct at time of research (June–August 2017).

  3. 3.

    Represented by residents of the NGV opposite the site, the middle class occupied a distinct positionality, separate from elite and private sector interests on one hand, and the EWS on the other. Respondents were mistrustful of the state, private parties and the slum people. Their concern lay mainly with themselves, stating “we need to fight for the right people,” the right people being the “common man—the common citizen,” i.e. them, the middle class. They were against the construction of the mall, primarily as they anticipated extra people trying to park in their streets. Whilst displaying some sympathy with the eviction, they were also indignant, asking “why should people [the evictees] get compensation? The government cannot provide houses for everyone,” and “[…] even I need a property.” Following the idea of the slum dwellers as cheating, a common opinion was that slum people were receiving subsidies from both, their own states and from Bangalore. Regarding the state, they astutely noted that “the politicians are not bothered because of vote-bank (“they give the slum dwellers false promises”).

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Pottinger-Glass, C., Pfeffer, K. (2021). A City for Whom? Marginalization and the Production of Space in Contemporary Bangalore, India. In: Martinez, J., Mikkelsen, C.A., Phillips, R. (eds) Handbook of Quality of Life and Sustainability. International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-50540-0_15

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