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The private city: planning, property, and protest in the making of Lavasa New Town, India

Parikh, Anokhi (2015) The private city: planning, property, and protest in the making of Lavasa New Town, India. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This dissertation is an ethnographic study of Lavasa, a new town planned, built and managed by a private company in India. It examines the ideologies, institutional arrangements, and political processes at work in the making of this town. It takes seriously the attempt to create a ‘market utopia’ (an inclusive, environmentally sustainable, properly planned, and profitable town), treating it as an empirical phenomenon with social consequences, and asks: why, how, and with what effects did Lavasa come to be? In tracing its conception, production, and contestation, the dissertation analyses the processes and consequences of transforming a rural landscape into an urban place. I make two main arguments. First, the construction of Lavasa is fundamentally speculative and is centred on the ability to transform cheap rural land into urban real estate. I show that the land market that enables the city is actively manufactured by the state, through powerful local political actors, and networks of brokers and agrarian intermediaries. The construction of this land market produces a speculative environment: one in which trading in land simultaneously becomes an opportunity to make money, a cause of dispossession, and a way to lay claim to the city. Second, such speculation generates both resistance against and support for the project. It also, paradoxically, emboldens the ideological project of city-making. Collective action is rendered difficult as it is mediated by the same conditions and state that created the land market. Therefore the contestation takes another form that moves beyond the domain of land, is couched in environmental concerns, and leverages a different level of the state to ultimately stall the project. I demonstrate how the symbolic power of this ‘market utopia’ conceals the conditions of its possibility, that is, the ways in which it was made through the state, through speculation, and the discursive and material operations of the land market. I show how this land market is historically and socio-politically constructed, and how its construction shapes and informs the politics of planning, privatisation, and resistance.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Anokhi Parikh
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > International Development
Supervisor: Jones, Gareth A. and Corbridge, Stuart

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