Current Institutional Affiliation
Senior Consultant, Academics & Research, Indian Institute for Human Settlements

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Development/Urban Planning, University of California / Berkeley
The Juridical City: The Politics of Public Interest and Urban Citizenship in New Delhi

In early 2004, an estimated 35,000 households - colloquially called 'Pushta'- on the banks of Delhi's river Yamuna were destroyed in the first of a series of evictions. Each of these evictions was the result of an innovative judicial mechanism created, ironically, to protect the poor: the Public Interest Litigation (PIL). What does it mean for thousands of citizens to be evicted in the name of "public interest"? The city government remained silent. Traditionally strong social movements that had historically and effectively mobilized the urban poor both as national citizens and subjects of the welfare state failed to stop evictions in the unfamiliar territory of the courtroom. Outside it, the media seemed to align with the city's emerging middle class in describing the evictions as much-needed "good governance" just as the city prepares to host the Commonwealth Games in 2010. This project argues that the emergence of the courts as a site of urban planning and government in Delhi has created a juridical city: an urban regime of rule defined by particular notions of politics and knowledge as they e/merge in the meeting of law and government. This regime determines urban politics in the name of public interest and shifts the site of claims to urban citizenship - the right to the city -- from the political to the juridical. This shift is occurring at a time of critical transformation for Indian cities after two decades of economic liberalization, the advent of a new discourse on "world-class cities" and emergent neoliberal ideologies transforming government. Within this transformation, this project argues that urban evictions must be read as an erasure of the poor's urban citizenship made possible through their criminalization within the courts and the resultant absence of an inclusive urban politics that this criminalization engenders.