Thursday, December 23, 2004

improvement or gentrification?

An article from the Mumbai newspaper MidDay shows what real estate developers are planning for Dharavi, the city's largest squatter community. It's interesting that the reporter didn't talk with a single squatter.



jackie said...

Hey, just heard about your book. I'm an attorney who represented the 5th street squatters and the Dome garden. It's interesting how City blurred the line between the garden community and the squatter community in New York City. I've sat in meetings with the City where they denigrated and equated the two movements. I think it's because government and developers don 't like grass roots movements taking control of real estate for Community people and interests. Squatters in the City were like tribes of indigenous natives with their own code of conduct.

rn said...

It's a sad reality that the real estate industry has appropriated words that sound great: Improvement. Higher values. Advancement. Betterment. Investment. How can anyone be against these things? So, squatters (and gardeners) become stigmatized as regressive, as self-dealing individuals who stand in the way of that progress and are trying to get something for nothing. This linguistic reversal (after all, it's the squatters and gardeners who are progressive and the developers who are staunchly regressive and against the poor) infects almost every country. In India, squatter communities are known as slums, and squatters are called slum-dwellers. This makes them symbols of all the horrific urban ills that the word slum implies--as if the incredible social inequities that exist in India are their fault. And it allows the media to dismiss squatters as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.