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HKS Authors

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Abstract

Based on survey research and ethnographic interviews, we analyze struggles over housing and access to infrastructure in two low-income "unplanned settlements" in the National Capital Region of Delhi, India. We argue that political leadership in these two different areas cannot be regarded as a simple extension of traditional forms of authority from the village to the city. Rather, the local leaders emerge in the process of learning how to engage institutional processes of law and bureaucracy in an urban context to secure housing and infrastructure. The enfolding of structures of governance with democratic politics in these neighborhoods reveals the overlapping movements of law, bureaucracy, markets, and democratic mobilization through which social life is made durable for the urban poor. Instead of asking what democracy has done for the poor in India, we shift the focus to ask, How does the work that the poor perform through and with these institutions give form and substance to democracy in India?

Citation

Das, Veena, and Michael Walton. "Political Leadership and the Urban Poor." Current Anthropology 56 (October, 2015): S44-S54.