Remaking urban worlds : New Delhi in the time of economic liberalization
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This dissertation examines the impact of neoliberal economic reform on New Delhi's urban landscape. It shows how the city has transformed since 1991 through two distinct, but interlinked processes: firstly massive 'upgradation' and place-marketing efforts, initiated and supported by the state, to create for the city a global identity worthy of the capital of a newly resurgent and aspirational nation, one that is also welcoming to new capital flows and forms as Delhi undergoes massive spatial, and economic expansion. Secondly, neoliberal urban development is also marked by a series of mass evictions of the city's existing informal, indigenous economy as degraded urban forms. In tracking the unfolding 'worlding' of the city, the dissertation is interested in the production of locality at the scale of the city, the ways by different sites, networks and neighborhoods articulate with the process, and how locality is produced through a series of inclusions and exclusions. In the first half of the dissertation, the focus is the conjectural emergence of conditions of transformation, mainly through the articulation of state urban renewal policies which promote privatized urban development, judicial eviction orders and media circulated calls for the building of a new 'upgraded' city to replace the old. This, as a new 'globalized' and aestheticized imaginary of the nation, city and its citizens takes shape. In the second half, the dissertation examines shows how upgradation and mass eviction have played out in Delhi neighborhoods, juxtaposing the experience of middle class areas, who's activism has been vital in putting forth a new vision of the city, with two cases of displacement. These are the demolition of the city's slums, and secondly the sealing or closure of large networks of indigenous/informal traders. In all three cases, the dissertation outlines ethnographically how residents receive, perceive and negotiate changes in relation to their memories, habitus, and local knowledges of the old, and how they engage with state and political actors, judicial fiat, party politics and the structures of the city's mass democracy to encourage or oppose urban reforms. In its conclusion, it argues that upgradation and eviction notwithstanding, activism across classes has engendered a common critique of governance among residents.