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The Durable Slum

Dharavi and the Right to Stay Put in Globalizing Mumbai

2014
Author:

Liza Weinstein

The Durable Slum

How Dharavi, Mumbai’s megaslum, has escaped eradication for decades

The Dharavi district, best known from Slumdog Millionaire, is one of Asia’s largest slums where nearly one million squatters live in makeshift housing on one square mile of government land. Liza Weinstein draws on a decade of work, including more than a year of research in Dharavi, to explain how the slum has persisted for so long, achieving a precarious stability.

There remains a dearth of rigorous and creative monographs that present a sound analysis of urbanism and urban processes in Indian cities. The Durable Slum clearly fills this gap. In particular, Mumbai, often the subject of popular writing, does not have an iconic academic monograph that provides insights into the workings of the city. This is such a text. Liza Weinstein's work presents the sociological research and analysis that can transform the megaslum from a horizon of popular imagination into a field of inquiry.

Ananya Roy, University of California, Berkeley

In the center of Mumbai, next to the city’s newest and most expensive commercial developments, lies one of Asia’s largest slums, where as many as one million squatters live in makeshift housing on one square mile of government land. This is the notorious Dharavi district, best known from the movie Slumdog Millionaire. In recent years, cities from Delhi to Rio de Janeiro have demolished similar slums, at times violently evicting their residents, to make way for development. But Dharavi and its residents have endured for a century, holding on to what is now some of Mumbai’s most valuable land.

In The Durable Slum, Liza Weinstein draws on a decade of work, including more than a year of firsthand research in Dharavi, to explain how, despite innumerable threats, the slum has persisted for so long, achieving a precarious stability. She describes how economic globalization and rapid urban development are pressuring Indian authorities to eradicate and redevelop Dharavi—and how political conflict, bureaucratic fragmentation, and community resistance have kept the bulldozers at bay. Today the latest ambitious plan for Dharavi’s transformation has been stalled, yet the threat of eviction remains, and most residents and observers are simply waiting for the project to be revived or replaced by an even grander scheme.

Dharavi’s remarkable story presents important lessons for a world in which most population growth happens in urban slums even as brutal removals increase. From Nairobi’s Kibera to Manila’s Tondo, megaslums may be more durable than they appear, their residents retaining a fragile but hard-won right to stay put.

The Durable Slum

Liza Weinstein is assistant professor of sociology at Northeastern University.

The Durable Slum

There remains a dearth of rigorous and creative monographs that present a sound analysis of urbanism and urban processes in Indian cities. The Durable Slum clearly fills this gap. In particular, Mumbai, often the subject of popular writing, does not have an iconic academic monograph that provides insights into the workings of the city. This is such a text. Liza Weinstein's work presents the sociological research and analysis that can transform the megaslum from a horizon of popular imagination into a field of inquiry.

Ananya Roy, University of California, Berkeley

An important addition to the work being done on urban poverty.

Economic and Political Weekly

The Durable Slum not only adds to the scholarship on the political economy of Dharavi, but through analysis of the Dharavi Redevelopment Project (DRP) also forms an important contribution to the question of how poor, seemingly-powerless slum populations respond to the totalising forces of global capital, and how they manage ‘to stay put’.

South Asia: Journal of South Asia Studies

Weinstein has produced a noteworthy book, which reminds us of the importance of long-term research in grasping the entangled and locally varying facets of urban processes.

disP= The Planning Review

The Durable Slum

Contents

Preface
Abbreviations

Introduction: A Mansion in the Slum
1. Becoming Asia’s Largest Slum
2. State Interventions and Fragmented Sovereignties
3. From Labor to Land: An Emerging Political Economy
4. Political Entrepreneurship and Enduring Fragmentations
5. The Right to Stay Put
Conclusion: Precarious Stability

Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index