University of Sussex
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Making Delhi like Paris: space and the politics of development in an East Delhi resettlement colony

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:36 authored by Cressida Jervis-Read
This thesis traces the settlement and history of an East Delhi resettlement colony, and the everyday and associational lives of its residents. Settled by the state at the height of the Emergency in 1976, from jhuggies demolished at the centre of the city, Punarvaspur sits within a longer history and politics of planning by the colonial and postcolonial developmental state. As such, Punarvaspur and neighbourhoods like it have long been, and continue to be the site of debates and anxieties about the place of ‘the urban poor’ in the city, and of much NGO and political work. As the subjects of large-scale demolitions of housing and livelihood in the course of resettlement, residents’ experience of these debates has been far from abstract. Even after 30 years, the aftermath of the resettlement still shapes social relations in the close physical spaces of Punarvaspur. For residents their frequent designation as ‘slum dwellers’ makes them the subject of much development work, while by extension also labelling them as ‘illegal’ ex-squatters. Drawing on the work of social theorists and geographers, particularly the work of Henri Lefebvre and Doreen Massey, the main aim of this thesis is to explore the spatial dimensions of the politics of development, through the lived experiences and spatial practices of its residents. By tracing how the socio-historical roots of planners’ dominant ‘representations of space’ are neither fixed, static, nor uniform, it can be seen how they are modified by the ‘spatial practices’ and lived experiences of city dwellers as they are traced out over the fabric of Delhi. For instance, the space of the neighbourhood becomes a medium for the organisation and articulation of social relations in its public spaces. This can been seen in the marking of public spaces by groups through speech, organisational affiliations and concrete devotional shrines. Similarly, residents, NGOs, local politicians and others deploy ideas of morality, respectability, and difference to limit and enhance the agency and ability of themselves and others to act in the public space of the neighbourhood. In this way certain locales are understood as being in need of development as relationships around development are inscribed in space.


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