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

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Striated Settlements, Neighbourhood Activism, and Delhi’s Residential Modernity

Jangpura Triptych

A neighbourhood history of one central Delhi neighbourhood is attempted as a way of addressing the lack of such work in existing urban studies. The focus is largely on the perspective of middle-class residents, their attempts at place-making, and their relation to other residents.

Even as the popular and scholarly literature on modern Delhi has grown (Sharan 2014; Dasgupta 2014; Sundaram 2009), there is little work focused on the affective, everyday histories of Delhi neighbourhoods in the long 20th century, with a few exceptions (Benjamin 1985). As a response, this paper attempts at reconstructing a partial social history of one neighbourhood, focused primarily on the period 1920–65, tracing its transformation from an outlying suburban village to post-partition resettlement site, and eventually a predominantly middle-class locality, through a series of historical vignettes.

The term neighbourhood indexes here first an administrative category—a limited political and administrative jurisdiction for the provision of civic services and resources. Second, it is an analytic that suggests from the perspective of neighbourhood residents a life spent in spatial proximity to diverse others, some of who may form a part of their neighbourhood “community.” Using this frame, this paper considers two moments of space-making—that of the late colonial period when the area was settled as a “model village,” and the decades following independence in which Jangpura,1 the neighbourhood in question, emerged as a quintessential middle-class colony, housing displaced Punjabi (Hindu and Sikh) refugees. In particular focus here is the self-described history of middle-class neighbourhood activism, collated through a histories of the area’s neighbourhood welfare association. With this, the paper attempts to draw out a particular configuration of civic politics that emerged as the neighbourhood grew and came to incorporate a variety of class and ethnic groups. This configuration is revisited in the last section of the paper, which moves to the contemporary neighbourhood, delineating changes to the area, and shifts in civic politics in the post-liberalisation period.

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Updated On : 28th Dec, 2020

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