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The Right To The City:

Spaces Of Insurgent Citizenship Among Pavement Dwellers In Mumbai, India

Anne-Marie Sanvig Knudsen

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Working Paper No. 132

ISSN 1474-3280


Anne-Marie Sanvig Knudsen




  • 1 ..........................................................................................................................



A few reflections on social science and methodology



  • 2 ...........................................................................................................................



Globalisation and entrepreneurial planning



Citizenship unpacked



Modern citizenship challenged



Formal and substantive citizenship








The right to the city



Insurgent citizenship





Mumbai ...............................................................................................................................



Vision Mumbai: turning Mumbai into a world-class city?



Pavement dwellers: the road towards recognition




Breaking down institutional walls ............................................................................


  • 5 ANALYSIS..................................................................................................................................



Insurgency as an everyday practice



Insurgency as a spatial



The right to the city





ENDNOTES ...................................................................................................................................





When two-thirds of the world’s population is forecasted to live in cities by 2050, of which

  • 3 billion will live in informal settlements (UN-

HABITAT), the notion of citizenship calls for a re-conceptual jostle and it needs to be reinserted in an urban context. The urban is no longer a neutral entity; it is a political space, in which the meaning of citizenship and urban life is on trial every day. Power relations are both forcefully contested and upheld.

In Mumbai, India more than 50 % of the inhabitants live in what are deemed informal settlements. These circumstances contrast sharply with the Mumbai Development Plan, which seeks to make Mumbai, India’s financial capital, a slum-free city by 2020 in order to meet the city’s aspirations to become a stronger player in the global city-circuit. As Amin points out (2006) these battles of what is at the heart of the “good city” become painfully and almost bizarrely vivid when the daily struggle for access to basic infrastructure is juxtaposed with simultaneous aspirations of capitalist consumption and growth. These aspirations do not appear to be in line with the everyday realities of the majority of Mumbai’s population. The paradox seems to be that the slum and pavement dwellers’ claims and appropriations of the city are not recognised conceptually nor perceptually - even if they outnumber the ‘formal’ Mumbai. In this context James Holston’s notion of ‘insurgent citizenship’ gains a very urgent meaning. The pavement dwellers’ fight for rights to housing and electricity is exactly based on insurgency- a struggle over the meaning and orientation of citizenship. Holston refers to these insurgent, everyday practices and struggles as citizenship because they negotiate “what it means to be a member of the modern state” (Holston, 1998:47). With Mumbai and the pavement dwellers as the empirical backdrop for this paper I want to investigate the notion of the right to the city as a way of articulating a framework for citizenship by answering the following questions:


How is the notion of formal citizenship defined and applied in the Mumbai context? How have the pavement dwellers contested their invisibility in policy? How are their acts of insurgency articulated spatially? How have spaces of insurgency contested and reframed the notion of citizenship? The primary aim is to undertake a theoretical exploration of the notion of citizenship, using the case of the pavement dwellers in Mumbai to exemplify and discuss the concept of citizenship. This is done by drawing on Lefebvre’s work on the right to the city and James Holston’s and John Friedmann’s concepts of spaces of insurgent citizenship. By employing these theoretical approaches I wish to emphasize the importance of space as an analytical category when discussing the notion of citizenship. Lefebvre’s spatial theory will serve as the foundation of my analysis as it in this case links the spatial articulation of everyday activities in urban space into a broader debate on citizenship. In synthesis with Holston and Friedmann’s notion of spaces of insurgent citizenship I hope that my theoretical framework will help bring out the complexities of my case, which are not immediately obvious. Precisely because space, depending on its conceptualisation, is such a powerful tool, which can serve to both neutralise and contest dominant power relations, the politics of forgetting entails conflicts and contestations, and spatial [re]configurations are the product of negotiations and alliances among multiple actors with different and conflicting interests (Lee and Yeoh, 2004). A main debate, which underlies my topic, is how the narrative of the global city impacts urban planning (Amin 1997, Robinson 2002). Saskia Sassen’s global city thesis is the point of dispute in this debate, which I intend to develop in this paper in order to position myself within the context of my case study. Furthermore, the notion of citizenship needs to be unpacked

in relation to the global city and the ideological assumptions underpinning it.

1.1 A few reflections on social science and methodology

Before commencing my work I would like to bring in a few considerations about social science and the values my work subscribes to. The selection of theory I intend to employ is predominantly based on a post- modern approach to science - among other things they are not value neutral. Therefore I want to draw up briefly the difference between positivistic and post-modern thinking.

“Traditional” science is often associated with positivistic thinking. This scientific paradigm is concerned with phenomena, which are objectively and positively observable and quantifiable. Rationality is an import aspect of this type of thinking; without rationality there is no science. What this implies is that there is a Reality “out there”, which can be neutrally observed and described. Morality is similarly a part of Reality and can be reached through rational scientific enquiry (Kvale, 1994:69- 72)). Positivistic science thus seeks to be value neutral. Under the label of modernism this scientific paradigm has had (and still has) a major impact on planning. The planner and planning is perceived as value- neutral and apolitical, seeking to advance society towards a common good. Post-modern thinking breaks with the ideal that science equals a rationally observable reality. Reality within this paradigm comes in plural and is concerned with the diversity and subjectivity of knowledge. The human factor, which the positivistic sciences sought to eliminate, is reinserted in post-modern thinking. Objectivity is exchanged with subjectivity. Along with the post-modern approach to science, the social sciences have witnessed a so-called spatial turn. Globalisation and post-modernity has blown up traditional boundaries of space where historical processes of struggle, transformation, and reaction are played out (Cultural Studies Newsletter, 2003). Instead space is constantly imploding and exploding in a

time-space compression 1

as time and space

have become two inseparable factors. Space has thus in the post-modern conceptualisation, become a product and a


producer of social relations rather than a neutral container. The focus on the social production of space also values everyday life as a potential agent for social change (Simonsen, 2004:173). I will elaborate more on this aspect in my introduction to Lefebvre in chapter 3. They way I conceive science and knowledge is of course related to my choice of methodology. I have decided to use a case study for my research and that calls for some thoughts regarding validity, generalisation and reliability. Even if some may dismiss these criteria as reminiscent of positivistic thinking I believe it is worth paying some attention to this aspect of qualitative research. Validity refers to whether a statement is true and scientifically correct- are we measuring what we set out to measure? This is a difficult question to answer when there is not a one-to-one correspondence between reality and our knowledge about it. According to Kvale (1994:234), validity is instead reached through dialogue and negotiation. Post- modern science raises a multiplicity of questions instead of coming up with one solution. Using a case study as methodology also raises questions about generalisation. Clearly, it is hard to generalise from one case. My objective, on the other hand, is not to produce replicable knowledge. It is of a more “generative” character- exploring what could be by looking at what my case study tells me when I employ my theoretical concepts (Kvale, 1994:230). Finally, reliability is difficult to assess as I base my case study on information collected by others. What I can say is that most of my case study material is written by members of SPARC. This may imply a bias, as SPARC is likely to sympathise with their work, especially given the fact that SPARC themselves have a political agenda. To verify the reliability of the data used I can add my own experiences in Mumbai. From what I have seen and heard when visiting the pavement dwellers and SPARC in May 2005, I find the conclusions drawn in the various articles written by SPARC to be reasonable.


2.1 Globalisation and entrepreneurial planning

In order to understand the aspirations and contradictions of a city like Mumbai it is important to outline the context in which it operates. In the following section I will discuss the notion of global cities and what implications this discourse has for cities and urban planning worldwide. Firstly, a few words on globalisation and what this concept implies. Whether globalisation in itself is a new phenomenon is subject to extensive academic dispute. I will just note here that what seem essential about globalisation, as an expression of advanced capitalism, are the post-fordist flexible production-systems, which create a geographically fragmented production process - as opposed to the vertical integration of fordist production. Saskia Sassen’s global city thesis (1991) has become a very prominent explanatory model for how to understand the world economy in the post-fordist era of dispersed production (and consumption) patterns. Her thesis has inspired policy-makers throughout the world and has as such almost become a self-

fulfilling prophecy. Sassen conceives the global city as the strategic locus of the global economy. The dispersal of production and financial markets simply need a geographically concentrated counterpart in order to organise and coordinate these highly complex processes. Because this concentration happens in cities, they are a fruitful starting point when discussing globalisation. Accordingly there has been a change in urban governance and planning since the 1980s. Harvey (1989) identifies a shift from a managerial to an entrepreneurial approach. Exactly because the nation-state is often bypassed by multinational investments and capital-flows, the local scale and thus local government, have an increasing responsibility to boost, market and create their comparative, location- specific advantages in the competition for investments. This means an increased focus on public-private partnerships and general reliance on the market to function as the distributive mechanism. However, with such responsibility does not necessarily follow a matching organisational and economic

capacity to actually implement such policies

in a satisfying and socially just manner. Relating this occurrence to urban planning, the planner has increasingly been given the role as a market-facilitator and the practice itself has become, at least seemingly, depoliticized. But as Harvey again points out, the city is more than just merely a “thing”, which can be nurtured in order to create economic growth and prosperity. The city is rather a reflexive outcome of social processes and urban form (1989:6):

When we speak, therefore, of a transition from urban managerialism to urban entrepreneurialism these last two decades, we have to take cognizance in the reflexive effects of such a shift, through the impacts on urban institutions as well as urban built environments. The locality “fetish” of urban entrepreneurialism and the global city discourse has ironically reproduced a series of urban images of spectacle and playfulness throughout the world. The official narrative of the global (and postmodern) city is that of a unique and diverse cultural, social and urban built environment, that is perpetually repeated from Sweden to Beijing because the solidarity of such locality celebration is rooted in a capitalist global logic more than civic and social cohesion. Thus, diversity and locality become oddly homogenized and exclusive. This is one side of the coin. Another side is the “forgotten” places (Lee and Yeoh, 2004), such as slums, which host millions and millions of people, particularly in the South. It is striking that such places and realities are ignored or eradicated given the fact that they often represent a substantial number of inhabitants, sometimes even the majority. Now, there is hardly any doubt that globalisation, in some formation, is a reality. But the point of dispute here is whether Sassen’s global city thesis is suitable to explain all cities and even what goes on within just one city. As Robinson (2002) shows, the creation of master narratives about the city, be it the global or the developing city, leaves out and even disqualifies an array of experiences and “cities”. Or as Lee and Yeoh (2004) argue:

“(…) globalisation itself is materially and discursively constructed out of complex interactions and power struggles between


diverse social, political and economic actors occurring simultaneously, rather than hierarchically, across various geographical scales”. When later looking at the development plan Vision Mumbai it will become clear how the official narrative of Mumbai as a global city contrasts with the everyday experiences of the majority of its inhabitants. The negotiation of the right to define whom the city belongs to and what it should encompass is exactly rooted in a discussion about citizenship in a global context, which I will investigate in a following section (Isin, 2000:15). But firstly, the term citizenship needs to be unpacked.

2.2 Citizenship unpacked

In this section I wish to give a brief review of

what the notion of citizenship entails in a modern conceptualisation. I have chosen this as my starting point because modern citizenship is precisely the point of dispute and contestation within the contemporary citizenship debate. In other words, what does citizenship mean today and in which direction is the concept moving (Smith,


In the following I will outline the main features and points of controversy within modern citizenship. Traditionally modern citizenship has been defined within the realm of the nation-state. This concept originates from the Westphalian 2 definition where citizenship corresponds to the sovereign, territorial nation-state. Hence the

primary political loyalty of the citizen is to the political community of the nation-state. Thus, the nation-state has been the sole entity to award the legal status of citizenship. With the modern citizenship status follows a bundle of rights and obligations. Civil rights are procedural and ensure freedom to conscience and choice (Janoski and Gran, 2002:14). The political right to political self- governance is the classical dimension of citizenship, which can be traced back to Aristotle (Smith, 2002:106). Finally, T.H. Marshall included social rights in his seminal work Citizenship and Social Class [1950]



Social rights entail welfare,

unemployment security, access to health care, education etc and differ from civic and

political rights as positive rights, i.e rights to rather than rights from (Jones and Gaventa, 2002:9). One very persistent feature of modern citizenship is that citizenship is

awarded on an individual, universal basis as long as this individual complies and identifies with membership terms defined within the nation-state. Such a community is governed through some sort of representative political system. But as Smith notes (2003:108), this is rarely done through direct participation in the governing system, but through some kind of indirect, representative measures. This has amounted to a dominant focus on “citizenship” as primarily a legal status, rather than a social process (Isin, 2000:4). Which leaves me at the core of the contemporary citizenship debates - what is the meaning and practice of citizenship? The modern conception of citizenship has increasingly been contested. Rather than defining citizenship as a universal legal status, it has become a field of struggle as the extension of the term has come under attack. Who is included and who is not? In that sense the notion of citizenship has become politicized through active participation and contestation of the meaning of citizenship. Looking at how citizenship is conceptualised and practiced demarcates the contingent line between injustice and justice and suggests strategies for the claim-making of recognition and redistribution by those oppressed and excluded from exercising their citizenship rights (Isin and Turner, 2002:7). Furthermore, the nation-state is under attack as the dominant scale under which citizenship rights and obligations sort. As the role and the form of the nation-state are threatened, nationalism is increasingly confused with patriotism while civic homogeneity is falling apart. In the section that follows I will look at these discrepancies in order to understand post-modern challenges to the articulation of modern citizenship.

2.2.1 Modern citizenship challenged

As Isin and Turner (2002:1)) point to, the citizenship debate per se is not a novelty, but the conditions which enable the

articulation of citizenship have changed. These conditions are exactly those of post- modernity and globalisation. They identify three axes around which citizenship is being redefined: extent (who is in and who is out), content (what are the rights and responsibilities) and depth (thickness and


thinness). In a similar vein, Mark Purcell suggests three characteristics of the changing nature of contemporary citizenship (Purcell, 2003:566): Firstly, citizenship is being rescaled as other communities of a geographically and politically different scale are challenging the dominant national scale of political community. Secondly, citizenship is being re-territorialised, as the link between primary political loyalty and the nation- state’s territorial sovereignty is increasingly being distorted. Finally, citizenship is being reoriented as different communities and identities (religion, gender, ethnicity, sexuality etc) challenge the community defined by the nation. One current example from Denmark is that of lesbians who recently won the right to artificial insemination, sponsored by the state, like their heterosexual counterparts. This implies that the social right to have children, granted by the Danish state, has now been expanded to include more than just the hegemonic definition of heterosexual parenthood. Even if all above mentioned characteristics are related, I have chosen to explore the content and implication of the reorientation (extent) of citizenship. Entailed in this characteristic is that alternative political communities challenge the formal political community of the nation-state. The discourse of identity politics is strong and is tightly related to the global city. Whereas citizenship traditionally has been based on equality, it is gradually being challenged by an alternative post-modern discourse, which is based on difference (Purcell, 2003:573). The problem with citizenship based on the notion of equality is that it excludes those who diverge from its universality (Holston and Appadurai, 1999:8). As such there is nothing wrong with making rights equally available but the problem arises if these rights cannot be equally exercised due to structural factors and unequal power relations (Young, 1991:36). Furthermore, to a wide extent cities are jumping the national scale in their interconnectedness at the global scale. The culture of cities and their inhabitants is often very diverse and grounded in relationships, identities and interests, which exceed the national scale. Public interest that is not pluralist hardly makes sense in a post-modern context The socio-cultural composition of



contemporary cities is increasingly recognised as complex, fragmented, diverse and with a potential for conflict:

When residents with different histories, cultures and needs appear in “our” cities, their presence disrupts the normative categories of social life and urban space. (Sandercock in Friedmann and Douglass


To gain an understanding of how the reorientation of political community affects and challenges the traditional conception of citizenship, I want to briefly assess Young’s notion of politics of difference. What Young opposes is the liberal assimilationist ideal, which presumes that “in a society where difference makes no social difference, people can develop themselves as individuals, unconstrained by group norms and expectations.” This (modernist) ideal is opposed by Young because it turns out that difference actually does make a social difference - even if equality is applied formally (Young, 1990:158, 163). Young perceives the recognition of difference as essential and positive. It liberates oppressed groups from the subordination of a universalist ideal which is blind to de facto social difference. What needs to be mentioned is that difference is not natural per se. Difference is rather a social construction and serves to balance dominant discourses on right and wrong, moral and immoral etc. Difference on the other hand has real social outcomes. Therefore, the politics of difference also serve to unpack, denaturalise and politicize dominant cultures and discourses. The positive recognition of difference allows for the possibility to negotiate the (contingent) relationship between the oppressed and the oppressor (Young, 1990:166). The reorientation of citizenship, as I understand it, is exactly related to the occurrence of the politics of difference. Loyalty to the nation- state as the single, political community has been broken into multiple communities of identity. What this means for the realisation of citizenship will be investigated in the following section.


2.2.2 Formal and substantive citizenship

Much of the contemporary citizenship debate concerns the relationship between formal and substantive citizenship: Formal citizenship refers to membership in a political community (…) substantial citizenship concerns the array of civil, political and social rights available to people (Holston and Appadurai, 1999:6). Thus, formal citizenship concerns status and substantive citizenship concerns the enacted content. But as Holston and Appadurai emphasize, the two do not necessarily unite. Even if you have formal membership of a political community, you may not have access to the conditions which enable the practice and claiming of substantive citizenship. This distinction is relevant in relation to how the notion of citizenship is articulated, because the liberal approach to citizenship often becomes excluding when difference is perceived as inequality. As discussed in the previous section, blindness to difference thus often perpetuates and enforces inequality, because even if we are all formally equal, we are not all the same in terms of identity, gender, social status etc. What this means is that there can be discriminating structural forces in play, such as the example mentioned previously, where lesbians won over a strong hegemonic conception of what parenthood entails. Simply put, even if we are all formally equal, the outcome is not necessarily equitable. As Gaventa and Jones point out, there is a difference between citizenship as a status and as a practice. One thing is to have the statutory right to secure housing. But barriers, institutional or otherwise, can hinder the citizen in exercising this right. Hence participation or active citizenship is the enablement and exercising of these rights. Following Lister, Gaventa and Jones take this a step further and refer to the relationship between participation and agency.

To act as a citizen requires first a sense of agency, the belief that one can act; acting as a citizen, especially collectively, in turn fosters that sense of agency. Thus agency is not simply about the capacity to choose and act but also about a conscious capacity, which is important to the individual’s self identity. (Lister in Gaventa and Jones, 2002:6)

Substantive citizenship is therefore also about obtaining the rights to have rights (Gaventa and Jones, 2002:11). The notion of substantive citizenship and enablement of claim-making shifts the focus from content to process. This furthermore implies an acknowledgement of the contingency of the content of citizenship rights. Hence the concept of citizenship becomes centred on the actively enacted and political practice of citizenship; political because the process challenges power relations and existing structures. Precisely because cities have become the main arena of these struggles, they serve as a relevant backdrop for an investigation into the status and practice of citizenship, such as Turkish immigrants in Frankfurt struggling with underclass stigma (Sandercock, 1998:140) or poor people from Cape Town, South-Africa, struggling for their rights to shelter (Miraftab and Willis, 2005). The reason is that cities are the locus that contains the mesh of scales in play. Both the local, global and national scale constantly implodes and explodes the formation of citizenship (Staeheli, 2003). The struggle for spaces of participation is therefore at the centre of the contemporary citizenship debate. When I move on to my analysis I will look at exactly how the contradiction between formal and substantive citizenship can provoke a response that seeks to contest and expand the spaces of modern citizenship. Even if the scale of the nation-state is being contested, the notion of the sovereign nation-state still remains strong. It is exactly this schism between the notion of traditional citizenship and the contested realities of citizenship that I want to investigate. This struggle will be conceptualised through James Holston’s notion of insurgent citizenship in the following chapter.


3.1 Lefebvre

In this section I will explain Henri Lefebvre’s notion of the right to the city. I have chosen to use his concepts because they provide a fruitful framework for rethinking to whom the global city belongs - how can the “forgotten” places become visible? When trying to get to the core of the logic of the global city,

Lefebvre can provide some interesting


insights. The strength of unpacking the spatial in a lefebvrian sense is that it reveals the contours of the interaction between spatial arrangements and social organisation in contemporary capitalism. At the same time Lefebvre’s spatial theory is a platform to assert a powerful and tangible critique “of the denial of individual and community’s ‘rights to space’ under the abstract spatialisation embodied in capitalism and technocratic knowledge” (Shields, 1998:146). The powerful element is exactly that these contours are never static but rather drawn in an ongoing dialectic process between the spatial and the social. This leaves room for a resistive agency, which holds so much promise when looking and making sense of the everyday life in cities around the world and the daily struggle for social justice. I therefore want to extend my account for Lefebvre’s theory to the key concepts on the spatial trialectics, which Lefebvre develops in The Production of Space. I find it important to introduce Lefebvre’s spatial theory in order to explain the loophole he provides for spatial appropriation, manipulation and negotiation which I will investigate in the following chapter when looking at the meaning of insurgent citizenship. Lefebvre’s spatial theory is an extensive endeavour to give an account for how space is produced. As implied in the above section l’espace is not just a container where things and people are jolted around. To Lefebvre space is social, produced in the dialectical span between mental and physical space. Space is thus produced in reciprocal relations and is not as such a finite and static dimension. Space is rather a flexible and dynamic synthesis, which shapes and is shaped by social relations. Hence, space is both a producer and a product of a spatial dialectic, which is a concrete abstraction between object and subject (Shields 1998:159-60) 5 . Lefebvre’s trialectic model explains the dynamics by which his notion of social spatialisation is to be understood. Thus, Lefebvre operates with three different concepts of space, which form a triangular spatial dialectic: conceived, perceived and lived space. (Lefebvre, 1991: 36-44; Shields, 1998: 160-170):

Conceived space is the conceptualised space, which is dominated

by the ideologies of scientists, planners, politicians etc. This concept serves almost as an abstract epistemology of space. Importantly, this realm is tightly related to the power of knowledge, because as Lefebvre notes conceptual space often operates within an intellectualized system such as verbal signs. The spatial articulation and manifestation of, for instance, a dominant planning paradigm, can become a powerful taken-for-granted perception of ‘what planning is’ rather than what it could be. Hence:

Perceived space can be understood as the topology of social life. This spatial concept is the daily, prescribed appropriation of the space laid out by planners and others. It serves as the spatial grid we navigate in and thereby create continuity between ideology and daily practice. As Lefebvre puts it: ”How could the Church survive without churches?” (Lefebvre in Shields, 1998:162). The immediate spatialisation of perceived space is only mediated in a taken-for-granted sense. Hence waiting for a green light when asked to do so by the red light creates a permanence and flow of daily routines, which follows the logic of the abstract ideology behind this specific design. But there is always an inherent potential for contestation in any red light or a full stop sign. Which brings me to the third element of Lefebvre’s trialectics:

Lived space is the contestation of the prescribed appropriation of space. By its lived practice it turns physical space into a symbolic space. The contestation can be explicit or implicit, but it is grounded within daily practice. An example could be a jaywalker or a graffiti artist. When Banksy 6 writes “the joy of not being sold anything” on an empty billboard in London, he uses the dialectic between the conceptual and perceptual space to suggest a spatial otherness and thus create a dialectic between ideology and practice (Shields, 1998:120). This opens doors to alternative appropriations and ultimately alternative conceptualisations of space. This process can be understood in relation to what Lefebvre calls differential space, a utopian space.


3.1.1 The right to the city

The right to the city is a concept that has become increasingly prominent in contemporary urban development and citizenship debates. UNESCO is currently discussing the concept as a series of legitimate claims to the necessary conditions of a satisfactory, dignified and secure existence in cities by both individual citizens and social groups (http://portal.unesco.org). Many scholars equally use the right to the city as a way of looking at currents in how citizenship is practised throughout the world and as a way of framing citizenship debates (Purcell, 2003; Isin 2002). The concept originates from Lefebvre. In this context I will use the right to the city in correspondence with his spatial theory outlined above. In his writing on the right to the city Lefebvre describes the city in the following way:

And thus the city is an oeuvre, closer to a work of art than to a simple material product. If there is production of the city, and social relations in the city, it is a production and reproduction of human beings by human beings, rather than a production of objects. (Lefebvre in Kofman and Lebas, 1996:101)

Hence, Lefebvre puts the inhabitant in focus and makes the city a space of potential and possibilities. The right to the city is just as much a right to urban life. From the notion of the right to the city two concepts are derived: the right to participation and the right to appropriation (Lefevbre in Kofman and Lebas, 1996:173). The right to appropriation encompasses the right to use the city in ways and manners which extend uses facilitated by exchange value, profit and commerce (Ibid: 148). Strictly perceiving and valuing urban space as a site for exchange of capital value contradicts Lefebvre’s notion of the city as an oeuvre. As Purcell puts it, the right to appropriation implies: “the right to maximize the use value for residents rather than the exchange value for capital” (2003: 578). The right to participation promotes the rights for the urban inhabitant to influence the production of the urban space in terms of decision-making. Lefebvre’s writings are in defence of the working-class but can be applied in a wider context. The right to participation defends the rights of the urban inhabitant to influence decision-

making, which affects the production of space. This concept encompasses those who are usually expelled from decision- making procedures such as homeless people, slum dwellers, street vendors and drug addicts (Lefebvre in Kofman and Lebas, 1996:146). Purcell (2003:578) notes that this participation could take place at many scales, from trans-national companies’ disinvestment to housing policies. Lefebvre’s concept of the right to the city is important in the sense that he puts forward the rights of the inhabitant. In terms of citizenship, rights are earned by those who live and work in the city, hence the right to urban life. In this way the urban is more or less the oeuvre of its citizens instead of imposing itself upon them as a system, as an already closed book. (Lefebvre in Kofman and Lebas, 1996:117). As Purcell notes, it is those, who through their everyday activities shape and are shaped by the city, who have the right to the city (Purcell, 2003:577) The reason why the right to the city fits the global city agenda so well is because it breaks with national scale. Citizenship, along with its rights and obligations, is earned by living in the city, rather than defined by the hegemonic nation state. Since cities as discussed previously also “jump scales”, the idea of qualifying citizenship in a lefebvrian sense is potentially promising (Purcell, 2003:581).

3.2 Insurgent citizenship

Lefebvre’s spatial theory, which also underpins the right to the city, has a strong link to the realities of everyday lives and practices. In this section I wish to supplement Lefebvre’s lived spaces with the notion of insurgent citizenship. In my analysis I will apply those two concepts in practice. My argument is that it is through the lived spaces that the right to the city can be inserted. Lefebvre does not explicitly give an account for how the empowerment of the urban inhabitant is to take place. I find the notion of insurgent citizenship an interesting way of looking at how everyday spatial practices and manipulations can potentially lead to a new discourse of citizenship. Furthermore, the dialectical nature of insurgent citizenship goes well with Lefebvre’s thinking. I will base the following on two accounts of insurgent citizenship;


those of James Holston (1998) and John Friedmann (2002). Holston begins his essay on Spaces of Insurgent Citizenship poetically: “Cities are full of stories in time, some sedimented and catalogued; others spoorlike, vestigal and dispersed. Their narratives are epic and everyday; they tell of migration and production, law and laughter, revolution and art.” (Holston in Sandercock, 1998:37) Like Young, Holston is engaged in providing an alternative to the modernist project. Holston perceives the modernist, liberal political project as rigid and insufficient in its ability to embrace the needs of contemporary citizenship. What Holston primarily finds problematic about this project (he investigates it with respect to planning) is that it leaves out any kind of social conflict and fixes the future in an ideological structure, rather than more modestly leaving the future open and providing room for deliberation. By advancing society towards a single, unitary goal, room for alternative interpretations is neglected. But even if these alternative interpretations, discourses and narratives are ignored, they still exist in everyday practices. It is here that the notion of insurgent citizenship becomes relevant. Holston refers to these insurgent, everyday practices and struggles as citizenship because they negotiate “what it means to be a member of the modern state” (Holston, 1998:47). These practices are found where claims for an inclusive and substantial citizenship are made and fought, for and against. I will later look at how these claims are made among pavement dwellers in Mumbai. Holston urges everyone to take seriously the insurgent practices because they reflect the reality of contemporary urban life. Since localised identities are no longer strictly affiliated with the nation-state, he suggests the possibility of a citizenship, which includes the everyday experiences and struggles of a socially diverse and heterogeneous urban population. Thus, insurgency functions almost as a safety valve: “They are sites of insurgency because they introduce into the city new identities and practices that disturb established histories” (Holston in Sandercock, 1998:48) . Friedmann equally seeks to revise the universalist notion of citizenship which has the nation-state as the defining

framework. The representative democracy has according to Friedmann increasingly outplayed its role, and citizenship is no longer in a one to one relationship with the nation-state. Globalisation has caused a mish mash of stakeholders as power has left the hands of the nation-state and moved to realm of multinational companies, financial markets and international organisations. In this process formal power relations have become blurred (2002:70). Friedmann therefore looks for a notion of citizenship, which can both expand and strengthen spaces of deliberative democracy from below. He defines insurgent citizenship as follows:

[I] define insurgent citizenship as a form of active participation in social movements or, as we may also call them, communities of political discourse and practice, that aim at either, or both, the defence of existing democratic principles and rights and the claiming of new rights that, if enacted, would lead to an expansion of the spaces of democracy, regardless of where these struggles take place. Following Mouffe, I argue that such movements constitute temporary politics that are held together by the ethical bond of its members’ commitment to one another and to the purposes of the movements itself. It is these non-territorial movements of resistance and claiming that represent the dialectical other to the formal citizenship “from above”. (2002: 77)

What can be drawn from his conception of insurgent citizenship is the structural aspect. This conception of insurgent citizenship is very much engaged with the content and enactment of substantive rights, or what Friedmann calls the possibility for human flourishing. Friedmann’s approach brings Holston’s ethnographic, localized emphasis closer to the level where citizenship is institutionalised. Linking to Lefebvre, both concepts of insurgency take shape in the lived spaces of the urban dweller. But where Holston’s concept in my view is very much delimited by the conceptual space, Friedmann’s approach seeks to deliberately negotiate how conceptual space is defined. Friedmann lists a number of normative principles, which make up an insurgent practice. These practices are situated in the context of the overall struggle against


nautonomy 7 .

Friedmann’s principles bear

resemblance with Young’s (1991) definition of social justice in that they are concerned with forces hindering people’s ability to realise their rights. Equally, Levy’s strategic action (1996) is echoed in the ambition to “scale up” insurgent practices from micro to macro level and the pragmatic approach to changing power relations by working with a variety of agencies of actors. Nautonomy thus refers to; “the structural (…) forces that systematically deny these populations the fundamental right to human flourishing and full political participation.” (2002: 83-83). When later engaging in the case from Mumbai it will be clear that without the link between everyday insurgent practices and the institutional level, insurgent citizenship will never move beyond just mere insurgency. Or in other words the insurgent

citizenship will not mobilize the means to realise an institutionalised substantive citizenship. At the same time Sandercock (1998:15) points out that inherent in the notion of insurgency and transformative politics is a long and tiresome struggle. She also warns of the danger of losing patience when progress becomes two steps forward and one step back. Turning over nautonomous forces by insurgent practices is not done overnight.


I have chosen to use the Byculla pavement dwellers in Mumbai and their struggle for recognition as my empirical backdrop to my analysis. To give an idea of the context of the case, I will first give a brief introduction to Mumbai before moving on to presenting the case.

nautonomy . Friedmann’s principles bear resemblance with Young’s (1991) definition of social justice in that they


4.1 Mumbai

Mumbai is located on a peninsula on the west coast of India and is the capital of the

state Maharashtra. Like many cities throughout the world, Mumbai has experienced a gradual process of deindustrialisation since the 1970s. Mumbai had a large cotton textile industry, which has deteriorated since the Soviet market collapsed in 1991 and structural adjustment programmes were introduced (Harris, 1996; 87). Mumbai is now primarily known as the financial and commercial capital of India. The city is estimated to have approximately 12 million inhabitants of which 50 percent are slum dwellers and another 10 percent are pavement dwellers - as Desai (2001:138) notes: One of the most striking features of Mumbai is its degraded housing. The approximately 6 million slum and pavement dwellers occupy 8 percent of Mumbai’s land – 43,000 hectares (Appadurai, 2003: 646; Burra, 2005:71). Half of the slum dwellers live on government owned land, the other half on privately owned land (Mukhija, 2002:168). The unequal distribution of land amongst Mumbai’s inhabitants is a result of a complicated relationship between developers, landlords, land-owners, politicians and organized criminals, and the fact that land is scarce as a result of Mumbai’s geography. (Appadurai, 2003) Even if slum dwellers make up more than half of Mumbai’s population they only occupy a very small fraction of its land. They also receive a very unequal share of basic amenities such as access to running water, toilets etc. (Bapat et al, 2003:71). As Burra notes (2005:68-72), to invest in slum upgrading, such as providing basic amenities, has for a long time been perceived as an open invitation for rural dwellers to migrate into the cities and thus undermine the existence of the city. This perception is gradually changing and slums are now seen as “housing solutions” (Burra, 2005:70). This shift has also been marked by a changed perception of the role of the government from a being provider of housing to being an enabler, promoting public-private partnerships (Desai, 2001:140). In 1995 a new government came to power in Maharashtra. They introduced an ambitious policy, the slum rehabilitation act, which sought to address the massive

problems of degraded housing in Mumbai by rehabilitating slum and pavement dwellers registered on electoral rolls since 1995. The idea is, through cross-subsidisation, to make the housing “cost-free”. Private developers are given extra building space to be sold on the free market, thus utilizing the high property prices. (Burra, 2005:71) This policy is still far from implemented but did provide a change in the housing policy environment surrounding slum and pavement dwellers.

4.1.1 Vision Mumbai: turning Mumbai into a world-class city?

Alongside the attempts to improve the housing situation for slum dwellers the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has launched an ambitious urban development plan for Mumbai. The vision and aspirations of the Mumbai City Development Plan (MCDP) 2002-2005 are to a large extent informed by a McKinsey report published in 2003. On behalf of Bombay First, McKinsey undertook a study on making Mumbai a “world-class city” by 2013. In order to meet this objective Mumbai was benchmarked with ten other international cities - London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sao Paolo, Sydney, Shanghai, Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro and Toronto -and a ten year development plan was assembled. The report suggests a number of strategic improvements, which concern economic growth, infrastructure, housing, environment, governance, foreign investments and public-private partnerships. If Mumbai fails to meet these recommendations, the report concludes: it is in grave danger of collapsing completely (McKinsey, 2003:2). The concern is that Mumbai fails to deliver economic growth and quality of life to its citizens. As a consequence the city fell from 24th place in 1996 to 33rd place in 2000 in Asiaweek’s ranking of Asia’s top 40 cities. Mumbai simply does not make the grade. The city needs greater autonomy and a charismatic leader to steer the growth machine (McKinsey, 2003:30). To get Mumbai kick- started the McKinsey report suggests 23 so- called quick wins; targets which are visible and attainable. Such quick-wins include targets like world-class housing projects, a convention centre, upgrade of the waterfront, and beautification of the airport and surrounding area.


There is, as the above indicates, an aspiration by MCGM to introduce a more entrepreneurial approach to planning in Mumbai with focus on aspects such as public-private partnerships, infrastructure to facilitate the global economy, and image- creating projects to attract investments and tourism. In the following section I will look at the case which represents the other half of the city: the informal Mumbai.

4.2 Pavement dwellers: the road towards recognition

As the following will show, the struggle for recognition for the pavement dwellers has been a long one. The official story began in the 1986 when a group of women pavement dwellers got together and formed Mahila Milan, meaning Women Together in Hindi. The women were frustrated with the continuous demolitions of their homes by the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC). The families had arrived to Mumbai in the 1970’s and established their homes along the pavements in the area called Byculla in central Mumbai (see map, section 4.1). Pavement dwellers are different from other slum dwellers in that they actually build their homes on pavements, rather than on vacant land. Approximately 27.000 households live

on the pavements in Mumbai (Burra, 2000), approximately 6000 households in Byculla



. Pavement dwellers in Byculla can

have very functional and orderly homes - approximately 2x2 meters with a floor loft added for sleeping space. Typically pavement dwellings are made from recycled, temporary materials such as cardboard and cloth, offering little privacy and protection from the weather:

For example, pavement dwellers in Mumbai know how to take claim of a piece of pavement and to build a house out of nothing. But, as long as the city seeks to demolish these homes, they are forced to use temporary materials. Their annual repair bill from the monsoon rains is almost equal to the annual repayment for a 20 year loan on a dwelling several times bigger, but, at the end of it, they have only a pavement shack vulnerable to instant demolition. (Patel et al, no date, page 2) Now, the women had an acute need to improve their housing situation but no means to do so. They lacked the financial resources, but also the belief that something

could actually be done. At this stage the pavement dwellers didn’t exist in policy or in the conscience of most citizens of Mumbai. Paradoxically, despite their visibility in the streets, they remained invisible and lacked formal access to basic service provision such as sanitation and electricity and they didn’t have access to subsidised food and fuel. One major obstacle was that the pavement dwellers were not granted the right to ration cards, which functions as an identity card and gives access to many social rights such as schooling and subsidised food. An NGO known as SPARC 9 , formed by a group of social

workers, set out on a mission in 1984 to improve the living conditions of the poorest of the poor - women pavement dwellers - by utilizing the skills and knowledge of the poor

themselves (Burra, 2000:8)


. Along with

SPARC the women of Byculla gradually started exploring ways of improving their living conditions. This led the women to form Mahila Milan in 1986; a savings group with the immediate aim of improving their housing situation and to offer emergency credit for food, hospital bills etc. A more subtle, but important aim of the daily savings rounds was also to build confidence within the community that something could be done about their situation. The women also collected people - paraphrasing Jockin,

leader of NSDF 11 . The savings rounds served as a way of building capacities and relationships within the community (Burra, 2000:7-8). Later on the savings did in fact contribute to a re-housing project, which is currently being realised - 20 years after the women got together to change their housing situation. So far 80 of 536 families have moved to permanent housing in an area called Milan Nagar, north of central Mumbai.

4.2.1 Breaking down institutional walls

When facing authorities, the pavement



often met prejudice about who

they were. One persistent misperception was, for instance, that pavement dwellers are temporary. Another was that they do not contribute to the city and its economy. This lack of accurate knowledge led to complete policy blindness towards pavement dwellers by the authorities. They simply weren’t considered worthy citizens, but as encroachers. Slum dwellers, for instance, had been given the right to appear on


electoral rolls since 1976 and thus given the right to compensation if a public agency needed the land they lived on (Burra, 2000:10). This right was not deemed necessary for pavement dwellers. Similarly, pavement dwellers were never included in any official census, “for policy reason” (Mohaptra, in Tandon and Mohanty 2003:298; Burra,2000) The Indian Constitution does promise social, economic and political equality and opportunity and guarantees a number of liberties to the citizens such as non-discrimination on grounds of religion, caste, sex, race and equality of opportunity and abolition of untouchability. As such the constitution is progressive as it includes the notion of social justice in the sense that inequality in status and opportunity is sought to be diminished (Narayan, 2003:81-82). But for the pavement dwellers it was not even a matter of “just” realising their substantive citizenship - to begin with they were completely excluded from any kind of formal or substantive citizenship. As Tandon and Mohanty, (2003:17) rightly point out, civil society operates within the system of rights and freedoms granted by the state. If an act, for one reason or the other, is deemed uncivil, the doors are closing. But as they also point out, these boundaries are not fixed; they can be extended when the power relations between state and civil society are challenged. This leads to Mohaptra’s point (2003:289) that a rigid conception of what and whom civil society includes often leaves out too much or too little. Thus, he views civil society as a set of dynamic social and political processes. This again relates to Gaventa and Jones’ emphasis on active citizenship. In a sense the active struggle for citizenship started materialising when a participatory census was undertaken by SPARC and the pavement dwellers in 1985 to make up for the invisibility. For instance it turned out that 13.5% of the heads of the households were born in Mumbai, 60% of households had been in Mumbai for over a decade, 6% for more than 4 decades and 17% for about 3 decades (Burra, 2000:5, from We, the Invisible, SPARC, 1985). The findings formed a base with which to gradually change the perception of pavement dwellers being transitory and of no value to the city’s economy. Indeed the census, published by SPARC, did prove

many prejudices wrong and formed a foundation for changing perceptions and later a change of policy. By counting people and putting the findings about them into a publication, We, the Invisible became an important negotiation tool because it was a tangible manifestation that the pavement dwellers did and do exist. Similarly, MM, along with NSDF and SPARC, initiated a housing exhibition in 1986. The aim of this exhibition was to abandon the idea of the poor as passive beneficiaries. Instead the housing exhibition sought to put the knowledge and skills of the slum and pavement dwellers on display to create a dialogue between the urban poor and government officials about how things could also be done. Thus, the exhibition resulted in a full-scale model of what an ideal house would look like for a pavement dweller. Housing exhibitions, like enumerations, have now become a standardized methodology of the Alliance (please see footnote 10) to create new spaces of knowledge about the urban poor. The methodology has been replicated by many slum dwellers through out the world, creating a base for dialogue and policy- change (Burra, 1999b) Still, it was not until 1995 that pavement dwellers in Mumbai were granted some basic formal rights. This meant that they were recognised alongside slum dwellers by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority and entitled rights to resettlement or redevelopment of their homes, provided they had been registered on the electoral role since 1995. Even if the implementation of the policy was lacking (Burra, 2000), it opened a space for claiming and expanding substantive citizenship rights. Now, what this brief summary of a long struggle shows is that by actively participating in how citizenship is defined in Mumbai, the pavement dwellers have contested their visibility in policy. Thus, the achievement is remarkable because they have gone from being entirely disregarded and excluded to actually re-negotiating the content, extent and practice of both the formal and substantive aspects of citizenship in Mumbai. In the following chapter I will look at how this struggle can be interpreted within the theoretical framework outlined in chapter one. The aim is to understand how the notion of the right


to the city can be used to articulate a new discourse of citizenship.


To bring out some of the key aspects of my case, I will begin my analysis by using an example of how the pavement dwellers’ rights were defended by an NGO in 1985. The NGO argued that the pavement dwellers had a constitutional right to live on the pavements because evictions and demolitions undermined their livelihood and thus their right to life. The case was taken to the Supreme Court, which acknowledged some of the forces which drove the pavement dwellers to live on the pavements. But at the same time the verdict ordered the pavements cleared:

Footpaths or pavements are public properties, which are intended to serve the convenience of the general public. They are not laid for private use. If used for private purposes, they frustrate the very object for which they were carved out from portions of public streets. (Tandon and Mohanty,


The only tangible result gained from the Supreme Court’s judgement was that the Bombay Municipal Corporation was instructed to give the pavement dwellers sufficient notice prior to demolitions and to only carry them out after the monsoon. But as Burra (2000:9) notes, the well-meaning NGO ended up doing serious damage to the pavement dwellers. The important point is that the pavement dwellers did not want to live on the pavements. Their objective was and still is to improve their housing situation alongside receiving recognition from the state. This point was entirely missed because the pavement dwellers were never consulted about their experiences. Instead the judgement closed the doors for any further interpretation of the pavement dwellers’ situation, the Supreme Court being the highest court. What I want to point out with this example is the importance of space as an analytical category when looking at ways of claiming citizenship. With the case of the Supreme Court, the pavement dwellers were dismissed because they encroached on public space. This conceptualisation of space makes the dismissal very simple, despite the complexity of the situation. I will go on to

qualify this statement in the following section.

5.1 Insurgency as an everyday practice

The aforementioned example touches upon the complexity of the pavement dwellers’ situation, which my analysis will hopefully uncover. The pavement dwellers do not want to live on the pavements. But inevitably it has become a fact that they do live on the pavements. This is the outcome of a thorny set of circumstances, which is reflected in the many layers of the city, ranging from the built environment to the policy environment surrounding urban planning in Mumbai. In the following I want to look at how the everyday practices of the pavement dwellers can be interpreted in the theoretical context outlined in chapter 1. Firstly I will look more closely at the meaning of the everyday practices prior to when the pavement dwellers started mobilizing their voices through MM and the Alliance. It is of course important to stress that the living conditions did not change overnight in 1985 and that for the majority of pavement dwellers in Mumbai living conditions remained dire. But the symbolic and practical meaning of the community mobilization is important for the analysis. As

mentioned previously it seems a paradox that despite their visibility in public space, pavement dwellers remained invisible, at least in terms of policy. The everyday practice of the pavement dwellers was, and to a large extent still is, determined by their housing situation, i.e. the fact that their dwellings are deemed illegal or at least unwanted in the urban environment. Appadurai argues:

Housing- and its lack- set the stage for the most public drama of disenfranchisement in Mumbai. In fact, housing can be argued to be the single most critical site of this city’s politics of citizenship.


As mentioned previously this affects their access to electricity, water etc and such services have to be acquired informally. Electricity for instance was bought on the informal market until collaboration gradually was set up with BEST, starting in 1995 (Patel and Burra, 1999). Obtaining water is also a serious difficulty. As Sagira says, a


pavement dweller interviewed by Meera Bapat and Indu Agarwal (2003:73):

We have fixed a rate of 20 or 15 rupees every month per family. These are unofficial taps. We cannot get taps officially. We have filled in forms so many times but the municipality throws them away. There is no provision for giving water taps to pavement dwellers.

My argument is that the fact the pavement dwellers are very visible in the urban environment is strongly linked to the justification of their invisibility in policy. I would now like to bring Lefebvre’s spatial trialectics in play in order to gain a better understanding of the relationship between everyday practices and insurgency vis-à-vis spatial visibility and invisibility in policy. According to Lefebvre’s spatial theory there is a dialectical relationship between his three concepts of space: conceived, perceived and lived space. The pavements dwellers’ everyday practice belongs in the sphere of lived spaces. But at the same time their visibility, or insurgency, contradicts the domain of conceived space. As long as pavement dwellers are perceived as encroachers on public space and the city in general, they are easily eradicated in policy. Again this shows the dialectical nature of space when used as an analytical category in a lefebvrian conceptualisation. On one

hand existing policy


doesn’t recognise the

rights of pavement dwellers, which forces them to become “encroachers.” On the other hand because they “encroach” this gives a greater incentive to remove them, because they don’t fit the logic of the formal city and are easily dismissed as unworthy of citizenship rights. James Holston’s conceptualisation of insurgent citizenship equally focuses on the everyday practices and lived experiences of urban dwellers. These practices and experiences are to a great extent heterogeneous spaces, which contradict the normative and institutional definitions of the state and its legal codes (Holston in Sandercock, 1998:52). Returning to the Supreme Court judgement from 1986, pavements are reserved for the general public and not for private use. This statement exemplifies very simply the conceptual policy framework within which an act is deemed un-civil. It is within this

context that insurgency is born. The relationship between the heterogeneous spaces of insurgency and the boundaries of normative and institutional definitions is exactly dialectical, not a static form. One conditions the other. But the condition can be of a positive or a negative character, meaning that the power relations between an insurgent act, and the boundaries which deem an act insurgent, are of an asymmetrical shape. I will investigate this relationship in the following section. Linking Lefebvre’s lived space and Holston’s spaces of insurgent citizenship, the pavement dwellers, I would argue, inscribe themselves within these concepts by the mere fact that they live on the pavements. But these on the other hand are not emancipated acts; they are acts of survival in an oppressing urban space, because the one important lesson learned from the Supreme Court judgement was that the pavement dwellers don’t want to be on the pavements. Thus, as a starting point, their acts of insurgency were and still are articulated spatially by their dwellings on the pavements; “occupying” public space. This level of insurgency is then what I have chosen to call lived space as a spatial necessity. In the following I will look at how the everyday practices and experiences of the pavement dwellers were turned into a spatial strategy.

5.2 Insurgency as a spatial strategy

What I want to do in this section is to look at

how the pavement dwellers managed to turn their everyday experiences into an active, symbolic space, which then served as a spatial strategy to negotiate how they were perceived in policy. While still living on the pavements of Byculla, MM and SPARC decided in 1985 to undertake a participatory census of the pavement dwellers (We, the Invisible). This had been avoided by the BMC “for policy reasons”, as mentioned previously. What this meant was, that by avoiding an official enumeration of the pavements dwellers, they simply remained invisible in policy and their visibility in the urban environment remained at the status of encroachers. Thus, their presence remained controversial. The enumeration initiated by SPARC and MM took this spatial controversy of the pavement dwellers and turned it into a negotiating tool. By finding out just how


many people lived in the area of Byculla, what they did, where they came from, what their aspirations were and so on, a step towards a legitimate claim of the space they had appropriated was made, because as McFarlane (2004: 896) argues, citizenship is marked through geographies of inclusion and exclusion. This enumeration was a step towards creating a geography of inclusion, in spatial as well as more abstract terms. It created a statistical entity, which could be used to negotiate with authorities, but could also be used internally to raise a collective voice and identity. The latter was strengthened and explored through daily savings schemes, which sought to build financial and organisational capacity within the community of pavement dwellers. 14 Lister qualifies active citizenship as not only having the capacity to act as a citizen, but also, as a prerequisite, a sense of agency that one can act (Lister in Gaventa and Jones, 2002:6). This approach to citizenship is relevant in the analytical context. When looking at the symbolic meaning of the enumeration, We, the Invisible can be interpreted as an act of insurgency. By insisting on their rightful presence in Mumbai, the pavement dwellers, although still controversial, started pushing the boundaries of whom the city belongs to. I would argue that through insurgent practices such as the enumeration, the sense of agency, which Lister mentions, is created. This is when their appropriation of urban space becomes a spatial strategy. Their visibility; their lived spaces, become a way of negotiating. As McFarlane (2004:910) notes, the strategy of the Alliance is: not to radically change the long-term politics of private and state- interests, though it is radically attempting to renegotiate the power between these bodies and the poor. As mentioned in the previous section, this power relation is often asymmetrical. When inserting practices of insurgency as a way of expressing active citizenship into Lefebvre’s lived spaces, this echoes his dialectical perception of space. It echoes change, because the sense of agency created amongst pavement dwellers directly and practically challenges how the city they “occupy” is both perceived and conceived. This in other words changes power relations. One example could be how MM negotiated with BEST to have them

deliver electricity to the pavements. In this instance, the pavement dwellers’ census data was used to inform a new methodology within BEST - at first BEST’s own procedures and methodologies were used as a reason why they should not provide the pavement dwellers with electricity (Riley and Burra, 1999:11). Gradually, BEST and the pavement dwellers were won over through a mutual learning process, which opened a door to further exploration. Power relations were in this case changed and the result is that BEST has indeed changed its policies towards pavements dwellers. Thus, the pavements dwellers’ acts of insurgency are characterized by negotiation rather than protest. I would then argue that this level of insurgency moves from Holston’s more ethnographical approach to insurgent citizenship to that of Friedmann’s, which is concerned with turning over nautonomous forces. This may seem contradictory to Friedmann’s objective, which ultimately is to change underlying structural causes to injustice (2002:84). But as Friedmann also states, the struggle against structural injustice through insurgent practice takes place at all scales and seeks to increase spaces of political participation. Even if the Alliance doesn't at the outset aspire to change the world, it does aspire to change many worlds 15 . The Alliance itself talks about “setting precedence”, which bears resemblance with Holston’s notion of insurgency:

(…) urban poor groups had to be able to claim, capture, define and refine their own ways of doing things (designing and building a house, developing their own detailed map for upgrading, developing a community-managed toilet…) in spaces they already controlled and then use these to show city officials and external agencies that these are “precedents” that are worth investing in. This gives legitimacy to the changes that the poor want to bring into a city strategy or a development project. (d’Cruz and Satterthwaite, 2004:52)

The point to be made here is that insurgent practices such as undertaking an enumeration and housing exhibitions have, in the case of the pavement dwellers, been proven to activate a sense of agency, which has then been used as a knock on effect to eventually change the living conditions of


many pavement and slum dwellers in Mumbai and elsewhere. I argue that this type of insurgency - using lived spaces as a spatial strategy - goes beyond ethnographic accounts of “alternative” plannings, because it seeks strategically to change the power relations of the game - which may then be a step towards actually changing the rules of the game.

5.3 The right to the city

So how does the above link to a broader

debate of citizenship? I have chosen to use Lefebvre’s notion of the right to the city in order to understand how the concept of citizenship could potentially be expressed. The case of the pavement dwellers places the citizenship agenda within a relevant context of cities as the primary arena for articulating new forms of citizenship in an era of globalisation. My argument is that it is through the lived spaces that the right to the city can be asserted. Lefebvre does not explicitly give an account for how the empowerment of the urban inhabitant is to take place. I therefore find the notion of

insurgent citizenship an interesting way of looking at how everyday spatial practices and manipulations can potentially lead to a new discourse of citizenship- the right to the city.

Now, the essence of the right to the city is the right to urban life, defined as the right to appropriation and participation. These two elements are reflected in both Friedmann’s as well as Holston’s conceptualisation of insurgent citizenship. The spaces of insurgency or the lived spaces link up to the discussion about citizenship precisely because they negotiate what the notion of citizenship actually entails. Within this negotiation is entailed the struggle over the right to appropriation and the right to participation. Following the diagram outlined below I want to summarize these different elements and look at how they could potentially make up for a reframing of citizenship. This will be illustrated further by returning to my case study about Mumbai and the pavement dwellers in Byculla throughout the analysis.

The right to the city • Participation • Appropriation Citizenship Insurgent practice
The right to the city
Insurgent practice

Everyday practice

Lived space as a spatial necessity

many pavement and slum dwellers in Mumbai and elsewhere. I argue that this type of insurgency
Spatial strategy Lived space as a spatial strategy
Spatial strategy
Lived space as a
spatial strategy



As I have attempted to show in the diagram above and my analysis in previous sections is that there are two “levels” of insurgent practice in play. One is the level of the everyday practice and experiences, where insurgency is articulated as a spatial necessity. This is reflected in how in this case the pavement dwellers are treated in policy. As mentioned previously the pavement dwellers were in the outset disregarded, both as citizens and as a part of civil society. At the heart at this is their housing situation. It gives the everyday practices a prevailing character of insurgency as a matter of survival. The lived spaces of the pavement dwellers are thus very much defined in terms of external oppression. There is a wide gap between formal and substantive citizenship, which stems from flaws in policy as well as flaws in how the pavement dwellers are perceived. As the pavement dweller Sagira notes in section 5.1, she is not entitled to claim a water tap - even if she in principle lives on government owned land and should be granted the right under the Slum Areas Act (Bapat, Agarwal. 2003:72). Thus the lack of formal, substantive and active citizenship leaves no overlapping “sphere” between the insurgent practices and the right to the city as a way of articulating a framework for citizenship. The pavement dwellers have appropriated the urban space as a necessity and prior to 1985 they had very little political and civil room to participate as citizens in how their city was taking shape. My argument is that a sense of agency was initially spurred by the participatory enumeration. This was a crucial step towards turning the pavement dwellers’ situation into what I then call a spatial strategy. By taking this step, the notion of citizenship was gradually negotiated by the pavement dwellers’ spatial appropriation and participation. Thus the lived spaces were turned into strategic spaces for changing the policy framework the pavement dwellers have to “survive” within. The ultimate result of this spatial strategy was when the first pavement dwellers moved to permanent housing in Milan Nagar. This remarkable event literally turned the whole situation upside-down. From being pavement dwellers they moved to permanent housing and became citizens with rights and

duties. 16 It is important to note that the spatial appropriation this project represents was conditioned by the pavement dwel lers themselves. Therefore one can view this as an event when the pavement dwellers successfully claimed their right to the city. The establishment of the right to the city within new discourses of citizenship that are formally articulated is a long way off. As outlined in the introduction the official Mumbai is very eager to promote itself as a global player. Within this ambition lies an obvious contradiction, given the fact that more than half of Mumbai’s population live in slums. Mumbai’s urban condition simply poses a substantial challenge for future planning. The pavement dwellers’ experiences show that citizenship is not a static category; it needs to be challenged - what does it mean to be a citizen in contemporary cities? Using Lefebvre’s notion, the right to the city entails not only the right to the city in physical terms, but also in social, economic, environmental and political terms. When Vision Mumbai seeks to eliminate slums from the map, I would argue that this ambition is not motivated by the above-mentioned logic of the right to the city. It stems from the logic of the global, entrepreneurial city, where slums don’t fit the picture. The question then is how the entrepreneurial city fits the picture of the “other” Mumbai? It seems that there is a discrepancy between the two. But it is also within these two contrasting images of the city that forgotten citizens such as the pavement dwellers have to expand their room for manoeuvre. Using the city as the locus for where and how citizenship is defined turns the story on its head. In the case of the pavement dwellers it has proven fruitful to claim their right to the city. Even if formal citizenship applies in Mumbai, and India for that matter, this has proved inefficient in securing substantial citizenship for a majority of its citizens. Paraphrasing Young, difference does make a difference, and in this case the pavement dwellers’ difficult housing situation is an outcome of exactly this oppressing environment, which ranges from policy level to the built environment. The right to the city is thus a fruitful way of articulating a new discourse of citizenship, because it takes seriously the insurgency implied in the everyday


experiences of those struggling to claim their rights. It is an active manifestation of the potential and the hope that the city also encapsulates. Ideally the right to the city as a fully enacted citizenship conception would dissolve insurgent practices as suggested in the diagram.


The objective of this paper was to explore the notion of the right the city as a way of articulating a framework for citizenship. In a sense this paper was also an attempt to bring attention to the myriad of everyday activities taking place in cities throughout the world. At the heart of the paper and its research questions is the paradox that millions of people live and work in cities yet still they are regarded as intruders. They are “the forgotten citizens” and yet they are so visible. There is an idea that Mumbai will be a global city on the same level as Shanghai in 10-15 years. It seems utterly bizarre when confronted with the chaos of Mumbai. I am sure that the chaos is somehow organized, but it certainly isn’t organized by the logic of a neat global city, with a picturesque harbour front and convention centres. This is not to romanticize the life of the 5-6 million

slum dwellers in Mumbai. For far too many people in the South and in the North, life is a dire daily struggle. My errand was to try to suggest an alternative way of conceiving the lives of these people. Rather than looking at cities as an exclusive entity, maybe the city could be re-conceptualised to encompass a variety of experiences and ways of living. Lefebvre’s notion of the right to the city is to me a promising way of articulating an inclusive framework for citizenship, giving voice to a multiplicity of experiences and thereby creating diverse spaces for participation.

What Holston and Friedmann suggest by their notion of insurgent citizenship is that the city is not a neutral container, but a political space in which meaning of citizenship is daily contested. Within the concepts of political and contestation is also implied a challenge of power relations. When coupling insurgent citizenship with Lefebvre’s spatial theory, and in particular the notion of lived spaces, power relations are uncovered and alternative routes are suggested. But to bring the insurgent practices to the level of a spatial strategy and to utilize these alternative routes, a sense of agency is required. The pavement dwellers have managed to take this leap and turn their position in urban space into a negotiation tool.

By employing a theoretical exploration of how the notion of citizenship can be reframed my hope was not to give a recipe for claiming the right to the city. My point is that the obvious scale of the challenge - how to improve the intolerable living conditions of millions of slum dwellers around the world - calls for a debate about the role of citizenship in the process of creating equitable cities. The debate goes on at an institutional level, for instance when UNESCO discussed the right to the city at the World Urban Forum in 2006. On the everyday level the struggle continues, both for survival and for claims to citizenship. Insurgency implies opposition and challenge to existing power relations, which are difficult to turn over. Still, the pavement dwellers have shown one way of turning oppression into opportunity and have thus served in this instance as a way of exemplifying how the right to the city can be claimed.



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  • 1 This concepts originates from David Harvey

  • 2 The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 introduced a system of mutual inter-national recognition between nation-states (Smith, 2002: 108).

Marshall’s inclusion of social rights was a step towards the recognition of substantive rights, which I will elaborate on in the next section.

  • 4 This schism is at the heart of many contemporary debates in the field of planning. Writers such as John Friedmann, Patsy Healey and Leonie Sandercock question the role of the planner as the sole arbiter of a given public interest. Instead they insist that this interest comes in plural and is defined collectively, due to increasing diversity within the urban realm.

Lefebvre writes on page 129 in The Production of Space (1991) that social relations only exist to the extent that they have a spatial existence. Otherwise they become what he terms a ‘pure abstraction’, which remain in the realm of ideology. Hence the term concrete abstraction.

Banksy is British graffiti artist who work in public space. (http://www.banksy.co.uk/films/index.html)

This concept is developed by David Held

  • 8 This was the number of households participating in a participatory census undertaken in Byculla, 1986 (Burra, 2000:10)
    9 Society of Promotion of Area Resource Centres

    • 10 This goal has later been adjusted to include “the urban poor”.

    • 11 National Slum Dwellers Federation. Along with SPARC and MM, NSDF is member of the Alliance. Together they work to improve living conditions for the urban poor. NSDF and MM are peoples’ organisations and SPARC work for them- not the other way around. SPARC thus provides contacts to official government authorities and thus help facilitate actions and activities that the peoples’ organisations find relevant. (Burra, 1999).

When I speak of “the pavement dwellers” I refer to the group of pavement dwellers in Byculla later federated as Mahila Milan in alliance with NSDF and SPARC.

  • 13 This is a simplified explanation. Many implicit factors are in play such a religion, caste, gender etc. Furthermore there is the aspect of criminals who charge families to stay on the vacant spaces in Mumbai (Appadurai, 2003:637)

  • 14 I will not go into detail about what the notion of community entails or the representativeness of MM and SPARC. When referring to community in the context of the case it is defined by membership of MM and thereby the Alliance.

  • 15 The Alliance official goal is as follows: The immediate aim of the Alliance is to create the institutional arrangements that are necessary for large numbers of the poor to access and housing and infrastructure. Our long-term vision is to support a process where organised groups of the urban poor can participate in making decisions about how their cities are developed and managed. (www.sparcindia.org)

Whether this change from pavement dweller to citizen has happened also perceptually is too early to assess.

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