Accepted paper:

Upgrading Connections: The Politics of Hydraulic Infrastructure in Mumbai


Nikhil Anand (University of Pennsylvania)

Paper short abstract:

This paper attends to the social and material work through which settlers in Mumbai compose, maintain and upgrade the water connections they need to live. I suggest that an attention to their everyday practices around water infrastructure disturbs normative approaches to participatory urban governance, and instead directs our attention to the contentious politics of maintaining urban citizenship.

Paper long abstract:

Where urban citizenship has often been theorized by attending to the politics of housing, in this paper I attempt to think through questions of citizenship by attending to the production, maintenance and upgradation of water infrastructure by settlers and other marginalized residents in the city of Mumbai, India. As the city unrolls new urban infrastructure projects, settlers make claims on the city by constantly claiming and upgrading their social and political connections to the city's water network. An attention to the materiality of this process- as settlers move from using their bodies, to visible plastic pipes, to a more concealed steel water system - not only reveals the aspiration that settlers have for an upgraded water infrastructure. It also reveals the political processes through which these networks are improved and maintained. By attending to the contentious politics through which settlers upgrade their infrastructure in the city, I show how their approaches disturb the normative imaginations implicit in projects of 'participatory urban governance' and instead directs our attention to the restive and contentious process through which tentative yet substantive urban citizenship is made over time among the city's most marginalized residents.

panel G11
Urban renewal over the globe: the spatial dimensions of citizenship