Making the Modern Slum
The Power of Capital in Colonial Bombay
Global South Asia
Published by: University of Washington Press
256 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm, 2 b&w illus., 5 maps, 4 tables
- ISBN: 9780295746272
- Published: December 2019
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Bombay was beset by crises such as famine and plague. Yet, rather than halting the flow of capital, these crises served to secure it. In colonial Bombay, capitalists and governors, Indian and British alike, used moments of crisis to justify interventions that delimited the city as a distinct object and progressively excluded laborers and migrants from it. Town planners, financiers, and property developers joined forces to secure the city as a space for commerce and encoded shelter types as legitimate or illegitimate. By the early twentieth century, the slum emerged as a particularly useful category of stigmatization that would animate city-making projects in subsequent decades.
Sheetal Chhabria locates the origins of Bombay’s now infamous “slum problem” in the broader histories of colonialism and capitalism. She not only challenges assumptions about colonial urbanization and cities in the global south, but also provides a new analytical approach to urban history. Making the Modern Slum shows how the wellbeing of the city–rather than of its people–became an increasingly urgent goal of government, positioning agrarian distress, famished migrants, and the laboring poor as threats to be contained or excluded.
Making the Modern Slum: The Power of Capital in Colonial Bombay seems like a book written to explain precisely this moment. It asks: how can we understand the relationship between “the city” and its laboring poor? This book is a must read for everyone interested in urban, housing, and economic justice, as well as for scholars of South Asia concerned with the subcontinent’s enduring inequalities.~New Books in South Asia (NBN)
[A] searing reminder of the long history of urban dependence on migrant labor in India.~Dissent
Chhabria makes key contributions to our understanding of urban histories that are relevant not just for historians but for many who are interested in more contemporary urban planning issues.~South Asian History and Culture
It is a forceful, passionate, and well-researched challenge to our assumption that cities predate urbanism, and its relevance extends well beyond the “limits” of Bombay.~Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
[I]nvaluable reading for scholars of South Asia and for anyone interested in “slums” in the Global South.~Journal of Asian Studies
- John F. Richards Prize