ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On the Charts, Off the Tracks

This paper on Ambur town of Tamil Nadu, an important hub for leather goods production, catering primarily to an international market, explores how the town's proximity to a metropolis can be a source of underdevelopment rather than a spur to steady and rapid urbanisation. It puts the spotlight back on a class of small industrial towns, where the dirty work of production, particularly of recycling industrial cast-offs, assembling secondary products and catering to low-end domestic markets is not moved out of urban spaces. Instead it is kept hemmed into unplanned and unserviced town spaces, while large formal manufacturing firms colonise rural hinterlands. It also highlights how disconnects among sectors, space and place can keep a town at low levels of dynamism and social welfare.

Housing, Homes and Domestic Work

Drawing from a study of work and livelihoods in Kannagi Nagar, Chennai's largest resettlement site, this paper reflects on paid domestic work as one among a limited range of occupations available to unskilled women workers in urban areas. It takes a spatial approach to analysing markets for urban domestic work, where issues of location, distance, travel, and timings are found to determine the opportunities for employment. In addition, it looks at domestic work against the background of larger employment markets for low-skilled female workers, and the range of options and preferences that frame it.

Urban Poverty in India

What kinds of subjects-in-the-making are the urban poor? The authors in this issue of the Review of Urban Affairs offer neither conclusive arguments nor radically new paradigms. They, however, nudge us to rethink poverty, not as an objective condition that can be addressed through policymaking at a distance or by targeted development schemes, but as constituted through contentious engagements of disadvantaged individuals and communities with neo-liberal policy discourses and agendas.

The Spatial Reproduction of Urban Poverty

How do mass slum resettlement programmes in expanding megacities contribute to the reproduction of urban poverty? Chennai's premier resettlement colony, Kannagi Nagar, housing slum-dwellers evicted from the city since 2000 has integrated itself into the industrial, commercial and software economies of the information technology corridor on unfavourable terms, swelling the supply of unskilled casual workers for local firms. This article highlights, from the vantage point of workers in the resettlement colony, how the restructuring processes of large formal sector companies within the "new economy" exploit conditions created by the state's slum clearance policies, to enhance the precariousness of work for residents of resettlement sites. It highlights issues of quality of work for casual workers in the formal sector and their role in the production, persistence and reproduction of working poverty. It thereby illustrates how the restructuring of urban space by new imperatives of urban capital, through the peripheralisation of both industrial establishments and working classes, creates new socio-spatial configurations of work and poverty.

Charting a Course through Embattled Terrain

Privatising Water: Governance Failure and the World's Urban Water Crisis by Karen Bakker (New Delhi: Orient Blackswan), 2011; (reprint from 2010 edition by Cornell University Press.)

Urban Concerns: An Introduction

This is the first issue of a new biannual, the Review of Urban Affairs. The RUA will contain articles that look at different aspects of urbanisation in the context of the growing importance of "urban society" in India and elsewhere in the world. The review will be guided by an external advisory group which will suggest themes, commission articles and have them reviewed/revised before publication.

Salvaging and Scapegoating: Slum Evictions on Chennai's Waterways

The latest Cooum river restoration project in Chennai aims to focus on slum eviction as an achievable first step. A 19-kilometre elevated expressway on the river is also planned. Together estimated to displace over 18,000 families from the banks of the Cooum, these two projects testify to how waterfront development, beautification, and eco-restoration, along with high-end infrastructure serve multiple purposes - both as direct strategies for capital accumulation through real estate value, as well as idioms through which cities position themselves in the global arena.

The Politics of Civil Society: Neighbourhood Associationism in Chennai

Scholarly work portrays Residents Welfare Associations as constituting an exclusively middle class "civil society" in urban polities structured overwhelmingly by class. In this view, rwas belong to a new politics representing an emerging partnership between civil society, the reforming state and private capital, aimed at reclaiming urban governance from the messy dealings of electoral democracy. The urban poor, meanwhile, are perceived as organised predominantly through the sphere of politics. This paper, using survey and ethnographic data on neighbourhood associations in Chennai, argues that these accounts are over-schematised. There are considerable overlaps between civil and political society: the urban poor increasingly resort to civil associational forms to claim urban citizenship, and middle class associations are more deeply engaged with the sphere of formal politics than their own or scholarly accounts convey.
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