Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Geography, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Geography, University of California / Berkeley
Green Evictions: The Politics of Land Privatization and Access in Delhi

This research examines the politics of land privatization in Delhi using the lens of environmental discourse. For the first time in thirty years large-scale, forced evictions are taking place in Delhi. These evictions are explained and often justified by the media, politicians and the courts in terms of the environment. My first hypothesis is that a particular environmental legibility, characteristic of Delhi's current moment of neoliberal reform, legitimates the eviction of the poor as a process of environmental improvement. I call this "green legibility." Green legibility is initiated by elite representations of the environment, but also consists of the redefinition of legality in terms of environmental quality, and the internalization of these environmental representations among sections of the poor. I will explore green legibility through ethnography of an elite residential colony and the institutional and political channels through which its residents convey environmental discourse to the courts and government. In response to the risk of eviction, the informal poor take up a variety of strategies to retain land access. My second hypothesis is that the majority of the poor contest their eviction through a discourse of land privatization, specifically by demanding legal title. I suggest that this approach operates in accordance with green legibility. My third hypothesis stems from the identification of a subset of the informal poor who use self-mapping practices to resist eviction. I argue that these approaches have effectively won material benefits for the poor by critiquing the terms of green legibility. I will evaluate hypotheses 2 and 3 through ethnography of two informal residential colonies. My work seeks to understand how neoliberalism and its non-economic forms of regulation (e.g. environmental discourse)