ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The Politics of Spatial Governmentality in Neighbourhood Associations: A New Look at Community Lives in Urban India


Das Ritanjan - University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, United Kingdom


11 – Rethinking governmentality: Sovereign agency beyond the state in South Asia


The aspect of spatial governmentality, taking shape around neighbourhood associations, is among the most important trends in 20th-century global urban history (Rwef & Kwon 2016). Yet, in India, some literature on middle-class activism of resident welfare associations aside (Srivastava 2015; Mahadevia et al 2016), there is limited understanding about the workings of such sub-state agencies, and their effects on sociability and trust among resident communities. This paper, therefore, focuses on community formation inside neighbourhood associations and explores relations between spatial governmentality and cultural affinities that mobilises new claims of community and difference.

Drawing from an explorative ethnographic fieldwork in the north Indian city of Noida, the paper builds upon postcolonial urbanism epistemologies, and adds to the literature on Indian urbanism via two key arguments: (a) claims of spatial governmentality in neighbourhood associations are an emergent form of everyday sovereign agency; (b) their institutional modalities provide a critical lens to explore the intersectional landscape of community lives. By examining the tension between class homogeneity and cultural heterogeneity that characterises politics of governmentality within these associations, the paper develops a rich picture of their ‘internalised historical’ form (Massey 1994), with a nuanced understanding of the symbolic constructions of locality, selves and communities in contemporary India.