The political economy of urban real estate : a perspective from India.
Session organized by Ludovic Halbert (LATTS-CNRS), Hortense Rouanet (LATTS-Université Paris-Est), and Aurélie Varrel (CEIAS-CNRS, Institut Français de Pondichéry) for the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), 21-25 April 2015, Chicago.

Abstracts of 250 words (maximum) with biodata should be submitted to Hortense Rouanet (hortense.rouanet@enpc.fr) and Aurélie Varrel (aurelie.varrel@ifpindia.org) by October 26th. Please remember to include your name, institutional affiliation and contact details on your submission.

India’s metropolises are increasingly seen as engines of growth in the post-liberalization era (Kennedy and Zerah, 2008). Showcased success stories like Bangalore and the circulation of urban development models by the IFM, the World Bank and consultancy firms have led central and State governments to engage into programs of so-called “internationalization” and “modernization” of their main metros (JNNURM, SEZ policy…). This resulted in the pursuit of a more « market-driven» political agenda which paved the way to transformations in land policies and to public investment in mega-projects (infrastructure, new towns).

Yet, the numerous failures in fulfilling the expectations raised by such policies led to mounting frustrations and bitter discourses among the middle-upper classes and corporate elites (Shatkin 2014). As a response, business leaders, architects and financial institutions engaged in forging local alliances (Sami 2012), which, by grounding up their claims, are seeking to influence urban governance and turn the landscape of powers to their own advantage.

Real estate actors may play a crucial role in this process since they have direct interest in the transformation of India’s cities. However, as recently observed by Shatkin, there is a dearth of studies on the real estate sector India in order to investigate: “the actors who shape [the industry], the models of urban development they adopt, and their influence on urban policy” (Shatkin and Vidyarti 2014, p.15-16). The hypothesis that we want to explore in this session is how and to what extent the real estate sector plays a growing role in the making of Indian cities. This said, according to studies conducted in other institutional contexts as varied as Western, Chinese or South American cities, the situation is ripe for scholars working on the changing landscapes and politics of India’s cities to explore what Haila calls “(t)he political economy of urban real estate” (1997, p.57).

Issues to be addressed include (but may not be limited) to the following topics:

1) Corporate developers’ growth, and its relation to changing investment circuits. How do changing regulatory environments, such as the progressive liberalization of construction finance, and the associated influx of capital , may contribute to support/fragilize the growth of corporate developers? With what consequences on the geography of investment into land, housing and non-housing real estate markets, at both pan-Indian and intra-metropolitan levels? How do changes in investment circuits affect the practices and organization of the real estate sector, triggering new strategies such as : addressing the diaspora market (Varrel, 2013), taping the foreign and domestic, taping the foreign and domestic finance capital circuits (Halbert and Rouanet, 2014 ; Searle, 2014) ? How does it impact its legitimacy vis-à-vis local and national policy-makers?

2) Urban imaginaries and the role of developers in circulating / retaining urban models. How do developers contribute to framing urban landscapes and policies through the use and dissemination of symbols and narratives on iconic architecture and desirable urban forms? Between the patchworking of esthetical references and the reinvention of local imaginaries, how does this echo and/or contradict wider “worlding practices” observed in Indian city-making (Roy and Ong, 2011)?
3) Developers as city-builders. How do corporate developers contribute to shaping the contemporary spatial Indian urban patterns, and to (re)produce social and economic divides? From the random juxtaposition of urban objects (enclaves, condominium…) to the advent of more or less multi-polar and far-extending city-regions, what is the role of developers? In particular what relation do they entertain with governments’ large-scale master planned developments: are they their best advocates, or a reason for their observed failures?

4) Developers, urban policies and the politics of self-empowerment. How do corporate developers contribute to shaping the power landscape of urban India? First at the national level, how do they attempt to influence housing, land and wider urban policies and with what effects? At a more local level, how do their interests intersect/contradict other urban elites? What is their contribution to local alliances? How do they achieve to enroll corporate leaders, politicians, and citizen groups? What limits and resistance do they face, for instance due the workings of “occupancy urbanism” (Benjamin, 2008)?

Cite this blog post
Bérénice Bon (2014, September 29). AAG CALL FOR PAPERS. AJEI - Association Jeunes Études Indiennes. Retrieved May 20, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/axi2