Dharavi: From Mega-Slum to Urban Paradigm, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover


From Mega-Slum to Urban Paradigm, 1st Edition

By Marie-Caroline Saglio-Yatzimirsky

Routledge India

414 pages

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Located in the heart of Mumbai, Dharavi is estimated to be the largest slum in Asia. Often referred to as ‘Little India’, it has been home to thousands of migrants from across the country providing opportunities for work and livelihood. As such, Dharavi presents a fascinating paradox: the convergence of stereotypes associated with the slum — poverty and misery — and an effervescent economic vitality, impelled by globalisation and international capital flows.

Bringing together 20 years of painstaking fieldwork, this book reveals the social, economic, political, and urban complexities that define Dharavi beneath the shadow of Mumbai, the financial capital of India. It provides a rare account of the slum’s history, with a special focus on the original populace of leather workers — who form the backbone of its urban informal economy — their work, organisation and increasing political awareness. Dominated by a population of ex-‘untouchables’, conventionally stigmatised by poverty and low status, Dharavi illustrates how traditional caste-based occupational and regional divisions continue to be strong and affect structures of political governance and economy. At the same time, it testifies to an intimate encounter with consumerism, liberalisation and technological innovations, and its resultant cultural globalisation under the heady influence of media, advertising and cinema transmitted by the city of Mumbai.

This book traces the mega-slum’s gradual transformation as a thriving trade centre, through an informal economy’s successful adaptation to global markets, in turn establishing an urban paradigm. It will be useful to those in sociology, anthropology, urban studies, politics, public policy and governance, and to those interested in globalisation, transnational migration and town planning.


"Having started her investigations in 1993, she has witnessed the progressive invasion of her research object by journalists, fellow researchers and activists – an evolution she vividly describes. More specifically, her book stands out on three grounds: scope, depth and focus." - Juliette Galonnier, Books & Ideas.net

Table of Contents

List of Plates. List of Maps. Transliteration of vernacular terms. Names of places and persons. Preface. Acknowledgements.Introduction. Part I. Dharavi’s Origins 1. Unaccountable land and people 2. Migratory crossroads 3. ‘A city within the city’ 4. The Dharavi way of life. Part II. Dharavi’s Population 5. Castes and leather worker communities of Dharavi 6. Dimensions of untouchability 7. Obsession with status. Part III. Dharavi’s Workers 8. The informal leather sector in Dharavi 9. Organisation of work 10. Made in Dharavi: Outlets and distribution 11. Dharavi: A globalised informal sector? Part IV. Dharavi’s Citizens 12. From caste associations to political associations 13. The politicised housing issue 14. From casteist politicisation to democratisation (1990–2010) 15. Dharavi: World centre for alternative urbanism (2000–10). Conclusion:Dharavi: Mumbai’s heartbeat. Select Bibliography. About the Author. Index

About the Author

Marie-Caroline Saglio-Yatzimirsky is Professor, Social Anthropology of South Asia, Institute for Oriental Studies (INALCO), Paris.

About the Series

Cities and the Urban Imperative

This series introduces a holistic approach to studying cities, the urban experience, and its imaginations. It assesses what is distinctive of the urban phenomenon in India, as also delineates the characteristic uniqueness of particular cities as they embrace change and create ways of experiencing modernities.

Taking an interdisciplinary route, the series evaluates the many facets of urbanisation and city formation, and explores the challenges faced in relation to regional, national and global processes.

The books in this series present the changing trends in macro and micro urban processes; the nature of demographic patterns of migration and natural growth therein; spatial reorganisation and segregation in urban areas; uneven economic development of manufacturing and services in cities; unequal access to power in the context of formal citizenship; increasing everyday violence and declining organised protest; breakdown of urban family life in juxtaposition with the reconstitution of community. They will trace how new forms of socialities are replacing old forms of trust and solidarity, and how these are being institutionalised in distinct and diverse ways within South Asia.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies