Tommaso Bobbio – “Countrymen Within the City”: The Construction of Citizenship and the Rhetoric of “Slum Development” in Twentieth-Century Ahmedabad

Tommaso Bobbio, Royal Holloway University of London

“Countrymen within the city”: the construction of citizenship and the rhetoric of “slum development” in twentieth-century Ahmedabad

Industrial development and demographic growth have been two dominant features in the expansion of Ahmedabad city in the 20th century. Unplanned expansion of industrial neighbourhoods, migrations and urban poverty led thousands of casual and migrant labourers to live in large shantytowns. From the early 1920s slums emerged as an important issue in the city’s administration: since then, state authority’s attempts to deal with slums have assumed two different dimensions. The first one is legal and administrative: slums are considered as illegal settlements which hinder the enactment of planning policies and urban development. The second one involves a moral discourse and looks at the condition of slum dwellers, both in the public and private sphere, in terms of fitting a supposed ideal of urbanity. Dealing with the first dimension, planning authorities have invariably dealt with slums as a housing problem, while the moral side of the issue have called for social actions aimed at educating urban poor to life in the city. At a political level, the two dimensions have often overlapped in the enactment urban policies. Since the time of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel’s leadership to recent slum redevelopment projects, Ahmedabad represent an interesting case study to observe how planning policies, with the aim of integrating urban poor in the texture of the city’s society, have in fact deprived them from access to a full citizenship.


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