Despite Mumbai's position as India's financial, economic, and cultural capital, water is chronically unavailable for rich and poor alike. Mumbai's dry taps are puzzling, given that the city does not lack for either water or financial resources.
In Pipe Politics, Contested Waters, Lisa Björkman shows how an elite dream to transform Mumbai into a "world class" business center has wreaked havoc on the city’s water pipes. In rich ethnographic detail, Pipe Politics explores how the everyday work of getting water animates and inhabits a penumbra of infrastructural activity—of business, brokerage, secondary markets, and socio-political networks—whose workings are reconfiguring and rescaling political authority in the city. Mumbai’s increasingly illegible and volatile hydrologies, Björkman argues, are lending infrastructures increasing political salience just as actual control over pipes and flows becomes contingent upon dispersed and intimate assemblages of knowledge, power, and material authority. These new arenas of contestation reveal the illusory and precarious nature of the project to remake Mumbai in the image Shanghai or Singapore, and gesture instead towards the highly-contested futures and democratic possibilities of the actually existing city.
Pipe Politics, Contested Waters will find interest among both scholarly and popular readerships, as well as among policymakers and urban practitioners. The text is suitable for graduate and postgraduate courses related to Global Cities, Infrastructure and Urban Governance, Urbanization and Planning, Political Ethnography, Subaltern Urbanism, Indian Politics, and Water Studies.
Lisa Björkman is Assistant Professor of Urban and Public Affairs at University of Louisville, and Research Scholar at CETREN (Transregional Research Network), University of Göttingen, Germany.
Introduction: Embedded Infrastructures
1. “We Got Stuck In Between”
Unmapping the Distribution Network
2. “The Slum and Building Industry”
Marketizing Urban Development
3. “You Can’t Stop Development”:
4. “It Was Like That from the Beginning”
Becoming a Slum
5. “No Hydraulics Are Possible”:
Brokering Water Knowledge
6. “Good Doesn’t Mean You’re Honest”:
7. “If Water Comes it’s Because of Politics”:
Power, Authority, and Hydraulic Spectacle
Conclusion: Pipe Politics
Appendix: Department of Hydraulic Engineering