My dissertation studies the social and material formation of the urban slums of Bombay and Karachi from 1870 -1918. I use municipal records of housing and sanitation in order to challenge narratives of incomplete modernization which have positioned slums as transitional spaces and slum-dwellers as transitional figures. Stuck between village and city, agrarian production and urban industry, or tradition and modernity, slums and their inhabitants have become marginal to scholarly accounts of modern urbanization. I begin with the famines that swept across South Asia in the 1870's and end in 1918 when the politics of region subsumed the problems of the urban poor, shaping the future contours of debates around urban poverty. By focusing on the slums themselves and the way in which slum dwellers productive work interfaced with the more formal spaces of urbanization, I attempt to interrogate the processes by which "the slum" is made as a category of modern failure or absence. My research develops a history of modern and colonial urbanization which overcomes the conceptual dichotomies which have rendered urban slums marginal to or accidents of modern industrial transformation of colonial and urban space.