The recent ‘digital turn’ in Indian urban planning relates to the idea that technology will overcome structural issues and lead to ‘efficient’ and ‘clean’ governance. This project explores contexts where top-down discourses of technologically-as-planning are confronted by the everyday life of a city characterised by deep social and economic hierarchies and aspiration for a decent life. It focusses on the ‘Unauthorised Colony’ of Sonia Vihar in north-east Delhi and a dispute over the non-inclusion of a small lane in a satellite map produced by the Delhi government. Satellite mapping is part of the process of providing official status to localities that are otherwise treated as ‘informal’ and illegal and hence crucial to gaining a foothold in the city. Sonia Vihar's residents claimed, however, that the maps were intended to deprive them of security of tenure through technological and bureaucratic chicanery.
Through fieldwork among the urban poor, technologists, bureaucracies and land mafias, the project explores the actions of the key stakeholders that produce the quotidian politics of urban space. It investigates entanglement of technologies, marginality, an apparently ‘neo-liberal’ state and the emerging politics of ‘anti-politics’ that the latter seeks to deploy in dealing with the urban poor.
Post-doctoral Research Associate: Dr. Matt Birkinshaw
Funded by the British Academy