International Development Planning Review

Contesting urban citizenship: the urban poor’s strategies of state engagement in Chennai, India

International Development Planning Review (2017), 39, (1), 77–95.

Abstract

Existing accounts of how the urban poor in the global South engage with the state fall short on two fronts. Firstly, the literature lacks an overarching framework articulating the urban poor’s strategies for engaging the state. Secondly, these accounts typically capture singular instances of state engagement pursued by the urban poor and theorise on that basis. Using Partha Chatterjee’s distinction between civil and political society as our theoretical point of departure, we draw on ethnographic evidence from Chennai’s informal settlements to demonstrate how and when the urban poor deploy different strategies of state engagement to advance their claims to urban citizenship. We do this by proposing a typology that relates the seemingly distinct strategies of claims-making for urban citizenship to each other, and identifying a trajectory of change for strategies deployed in the Indian metropolis of Chennai.

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