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Becoming a Slum: From Municipal Colony to Illegal Settlement in Liberalization-Era Mumbai



This article argues that the transformation of a Mumbai neighborhood from municipal housing colony into illegal slum has been facilitated by the politically mediated deterioration and criminalization of its water infrastructure in the context of liberalization-era policy shifts. These policy shifts hinge upon a conceptual binary that posits the unplanned, illegal and informal ‘slum’ as the self-evident conceptual counterpoint to a planned, formal, ‘world-class’ city. The story of Shivajinagar-Bainganwadi problematizes this assumption by evidencing the deeply political and highly unstable nature of this binary — and thus insists upon an account of the shifting political and economic stakes imbued in these categories. The case of Shivajinagar-Bainganwadi reveals that the neighborhood's emergence as an illegal slum has been mediated by the liberalization-era politics that have come to infuse the neighborhood's water pipes — dynamics that have produced the illegality/informality of the neighborhood as a discursive effect.