CPR-CSH Workshop on Unmaking Citizens: Urban Citizenship and the Impoverishment of Poverty by Gautam Bhan of Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore
Date: Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Time: 3.45 p.m.
Venue: Conference Hall, Centre for Policy Research, Dharma Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110 021
Drawing on Upendra Baxi’s notion of “impoverishment” – “a dynamic process of public decision-making in which it is considered just, right and fair that some people may become or stay impoverished” – I argue in this talk that the body of case law of juridically-ordered evictions in Delhi in the last two decades are an ideal lens through which to understand processes of impoverishment in contemporary Indian cities. In this presentation, I argue that case law on urban evictions makes visible at least three processes of impoverishment: (a) new languages of rights and city-centric claims to belonging and citizenship; (b) the production of the poor as “improper citizens” through the creation of the category of the “encroacher” that binds their identity to a spatial illegality and becomes the basis of a disavowal of rights; and, finally, (c) the discursive erasure of the vulnerability of the poor and the emergence of a new “urban majority” as the subject of urban politics. It is this impoverishment that both enables evictions in the name of public interest just as it is reproduced through them. Further, I suggest that these “active processes” of impoverishment made visible in instances of eviction both originate and extend beyond them. More than just the impoverishment of specific populations of the poor that reside in bastis, they are part of a larger shift in the politics of poverty in urban India and the reduction of the efficacy of poverty as the basis of a political claim to rights, entitlements and, indeed, to citizenship itself. I term this shift the impoverishment of poverty. The impoverishment of poverty stands as a serious challenge to the right to the city for the urban poor. Yet it also represents the starting point for an inclusive politics – it is in only through recognizing the logics and processes of impoverishment within the city that renewed resistance can begin that will not only be impassioned but also effective.
Gautam Bhan teaches at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore. His current research and practice address urban poverty, inequality and development with a focus on housing. He is most recently the author (with Kalyani Menon-Sen) of Swept off the Map: Surviving Eviction and Resettlement in Delhi (Yoda Press) as well as several journal articles. He received his Ph.D. in Urban Studies and Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. __________________
This is the fortieth in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society, and politics. For further information, please contact: Marie-Hélène Zerah at firstname.lastname@example.org or Partha Mukhopadhyay at email@example.com