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Conflict and Commensuration: Contested Market Making in India's Private Real Estate Development Sector


  • Research for this article was carried out with the support of the American Institute of Indian Studies, the National Science Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania. I am grateful to Asif Agha, Greg Urban and Ritty Lukose for their support and encouragement, as well as to Gavin Shaktin, Sheetal Chhabria, Constantine Nakassis, Emily Pawley and Sohini Kar who provided insightful comments on earlier drafts of this article. I would like to thank three anonymous referees for pushing me to strengthen and clarify my argument.


Newly constructed high-rise housing and malls, soaring land prices and violent confrontations over land testify to the massive urban transformations underway in India today. Having secured an expanded role in urban development from the state, the private sector helps to shape urban restructuring; however, few scholars have studied private real estate development in India or revealed the factions that underlie an analytically unitary ‘private sector’. This article sheds light on private sector real estate industry members' efforts to develop an internationally familiar real estate market in India. Foreign investors and consultants have been collaborating with Indian real estate developers, who are now active intermediaries in the flow of capital into India. Drawing on participant observation and data from interviews, this article finds, however, that foreign financiers and Indian developers struggle to form partnerships on account of differences on issues like land valuation. The outcome of such conflicts will define the contours of Indian real estate development and its integration with international markets in the future.