ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

“You have meals to live together”: Co-habiting of Bengali-speaking migrant workers in a trans-local Mumbai


Baruah Debangana - Tata Institute of Social Sciences, School of Development Studies, Mumbai, India


06 – Housing, Dwelling, Multilocal ‘Home’-Making: Repertoires of Living Together in Urban South Asia and Beyond


 In urban areas, migrant workers cohabiting together is often seen through the lens of materiality and informality of infrastructure. This paper explores how the informality of housing reveals the process of dwelling and cohabiting of marginalized Bengali-speaking Muslim migrant workers from India’s Northeast state of Assam living in  precarious, albeit, provisional makeshift arrangements like one-room apartments in Mumbai. Its setting is in a Muslim-dominant neighborhood, Mohammad Ali Road, where they live together to not only bring the material aspect of housing but also reproduce everyday conviviality, solidarity, and trust. In doing so, I investigate their communion set-up as what they call “mess” i.e. eating and living together in these enclosed spaces. This process does not replicate their definition of home per se, rather making them constantly living on the fringes. Through an ethnographic approach, I explore two sets of relationships, first between them and the neighborhood, and second how they turn their space from being regional to trans-local. These sets of practices of cohabiting, dwelling and living together go beyond the dichotomy of materiality and informality. To this end, I argue how they bind their community together to an extent where they find themselves living in improvised lives.