Pushpa Arabindoo – The spatial (il)logic of slum resettlement sites in Chennai


Event Date 22 – 23 May 2012
Royal Holloway University of London
11 Bedford Sq
London WC1E 6DP

The Department of Geography at Royal Holloway University of London presents:

Speculating on Slums



This two day workshop in May 2012 in Bedford Square, London will examine the role played by global financial investments in land markets and globalised networks of capital in slums of developing countries. It questions some of the underlying assumptions through which informal housing in the global South has been understood, gives insights into new emerging forms of marginality, highlights contradictory, complex tensions that emerge for donors, governments, and NGOs in relation to the urban poor. The workshop draws together interdisciplinary intellectual debates, key conceptual, political and policy lessons which will enable a new research agenda for work in informal housing in the global South. Leading academic scholars working on informal housing issues and NGO practitioners will be the main selective participants in the workshop.

Pushpa Arabindoo (University College London)
The spatial (il)logic of slum resettlement sites in Chennai

Postcolonial state policies addressing the challenges of slums in urban India have oscillated between in-situ slum improvement programmes and outright resettlement schemes. Often located in areas far removed from the city, the latter have been acknowledged as not so ideal a solution as they epitomise spaces of exaggerated marginality disconnecting inhabitants from the labour market. Yet, they are an increasingly popular policy choice given their rather neat convergence with the neoliberal urban development strategies currently pursued in most Indian cities. In this context, while scholars note the rapidity with which the economic isolation of the poor dissolves into dysfunctionality in these hyper-marginal spaces, such studies have generally looked at the resettlement sites in relation to the wider geography of the city, but hardly examine the details of their microcosm. Even though the delinking of the urban poor from the city’s social production processes is a significant issue, what affects them the most (or worst) is not just this process of deproletarianisation but the intimidations associated with new kinds of spatial injustices generated within these resettlement sites. For, embedded within their neatly gridded and regulated layout is a spatial illogic which drastically reduces the social agency of the relocated slum dwellers. Through an ethnographic investigation of two such resettlement sites (Semmancheri and Kannagi Nagar) in southern Chennai, this paper highlights the critical role of everyday spatiality in disrupting a sense of social collectivity, becoming instead a symbol of disempowerment.





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