‘We have many ways to make you leave’: The Struggle for Land Rights in Old Lahore

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - 9:30am
McNeil 130, URBS Office
Presenter: Fatima Tassadiq, PhD candidate Anthropology

BREAKFAST PROVIDED

Discussant: David Gouverneur, Associate Professor, Penn Design

Abstract: This paper looks at politics and practices of land acquisition for the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) in Lahore, Pakistan to reflect on the contested practices deployed by urban low-income residents and the contingent ways in which they engage different layers of the state in their struggle for land and homeownership. In particular I look at the acquisition of land in the densely populated inner city to study how different practices of claims making inform the interaction of state and non state actors, facilitate land acquisition, and underscore diverging notions of morality, legal rights, and civic behavior. I argue that state permissiveness towards informal, self-organizing urbanity simultaneously relieves it from the responsibility of providing shelter and means of livelihood for its most vulnerable citizens while enabling it to retain the power to remove unplanned settlements and displace the urban poor when necessary. Moreover, an analysis of the techno administrative terrain of the OLMT demonstrates how the design, construction, and operation of infrastructures do not passively reflect existing inequalities but constitute differentiated subjectivities. It is in this discursive and material terrain that the state produces classed identities and actively produces disposable bodies and abject populations. The paper draws upon and contributes to scholarly debates regarding the state and democracy, infrastructures, and citizenship within the fields of anthropology, political theory, and urban studies. I use data from fieldwork conducted in Lahore during the summer of 2016. In particular I draw upon interviews with a resident of McLeod Road fighting the state’s acquisition of his house, legal counsel for the Government of Punjab, and a civil society activist from the Lahore Bachao Tehreek (Save Lahore Movement).