Towards an Urban Property Formations Framework for Second Wave Subaltern Urbanism Studies

First wave subaltern urbanism demonstrated that much of the phenomena and many of the questions that arise from the South cannot be sufficiently recognised nor explained by canonical urban theories and concepts deemed too entangled with Western cities and urbanisation processes.  The second wave is shaping up to be a struggle between 1) the consolidation of first wave insights and findings to produce a set of theories, concepts and methods for studying and politicising subalternity, and 2) the incorporation into already established fields within urban studies.  Theorising forms of urban property as politically and practically malleable bundles of interrelated rights and obligations provides subaltern urbanism with an object of analysis that can logically thread the needle across urban political economy, materiality, and representation.  I will demonstrate that urban property formations are a productive domain and vector of consolidation by grounding the ostensible complexity and fluidity of subaltern urbanism in the grammar of property as ideology, rights, obligations and practices.  This brings into view a provisional typology that includes bare, subaltern, legal, and exceptional forms of urban property.   Subaltern property covers both what is not officially recognised by the state as private, common, or public property and uses or enclosures that would likely not hold up to official legal or regulatory scrutiny.   Bare property is unendorsed by any locus of authority, and is thus perpetually exposed to censure, seizure, or destruction.  It is analogous with Agamben’s theory of bare life excluded from polity.  Exceptional property exceeds the categorical but enjoys the contractual or implicit endorsement of the state and civil society.

Tara is a Marie Skłodowska Curie Research Fellowship recipient. Her research on India looks at the contradictions between official urban interventions (programmes, projects, policies and plans) targeting housing and urban development, and local property formations. This work highlights the ambiguities between dominant policy paradigms and different localities by depicting the forms of placed-based regimes that both emerge from and exploit these tensions.