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Lecture | L-PEG Lunch Research Seminar

Displacement and Bodily Politics: Experience of Rural ‘Homeless’ in Peri-Urban Calcutta

Friday 16 October 2020
Online event - Kaltura (link sent to registered participants)


In this paper I explore the struggle for spaces of livelihood of a group of rural migrants who flock to the urban margins of the Calcutta metropolitan area from the countryside of Bengal in India, in search of livelihoods, and their negotiation of myriad forms of dispossession and displacements. My study takes a long time frame from the late 1930s to the present. These groups have faced discursive erasure in migration histories and policy circles, in-spite of a growing numerical presence in the Bengal region from around the late 1930s. They concentrate in marginal spaces like canal side shanties and pavements and are variedly labelled as ‘vagrants’, ‘squatters’ and ‘homeless’ and seen to ‘encroach’ on urban lands. I look into the politics of space that unfold around these migrant quarters through the years of post-colonial governance till the present moment of neoliberalisation. Drawing on participatory field research conducted at specific areas of concentration of these migrants in Calcutta, I explore how they migrate to the urban margins due to long term structural violence of poverty and are often meted with serial displacements by the state and the market forces of property. My paper also traces how their lack of legal status positions them in relation to different welfare schemes meant for the urban poor. Finally the paper discusses their participation in politics through certain embodied practices through which they claim their right to the city and political subjectivity.

Registration: Please register in advance at l-peg@hum.leidenuniv.nl to receive a copy of the paper

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