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A View From the Rooftop: Conflicting Visions of a Neighbourhood Redevelopment Project in Mumbai


· Jonathan Galton School of Oriental and African Studies (London, United Kingdom)


07/28 | 11:00-11:20 UTC+2/CEST


Standing on the rooftops of the BDD Chawls, a central Mumbai housing colony, you can read the city’s recent history in its skyline. The informal name for the local area, Girangaon (“village of mills”) is explained by chimneys, relics of the now defunct textile industry that fuelled Mumbai’s economy for much of the twentieth century. These are dwarfed by blue-glass and concrete behemoths representing a new neoliberal order: malls, office complexes and luxury residential high-rises. The BDD Chawls, themselves a throwback to the bygone mill era, are in the process of demolition and redevelopment by the state housing agency, with promises to accommodate chawl residents free of charge in the forthcoming flats.

Ethnographies of urban redevelopment are often framed in terms of a conflict between the interests of residents on the one hand and the interests of developers, planners and politicians on the other. Less attention, however, has been paid to conflicts around urban renewal arising among residents themselves. In this paper I draw on a year’s ethnographic fieldwork in the neighbourhood to demonstrate how the ostensibly beneficial BDD Chawls rehousing project has sharply divided the residential community, exacerbating existing political and religious and regional fault-lines.