Politics of archiving: hawkers and pavement dwellers in Calcutta

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


Dialect Anthropology, Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010, Volume 35, Number 3, p.295–316 (2011)




Archive, Democracy, Footpath, Governmentality, Hawkers, Informal economy, Pavement dwellers


In the last decade, several influential scholars have rigorously worked on the impact of neoliberal globalization on the poor in the cities of the South. But they have yet to provide a comprehensive account of how and why some groups in the margins are seen to successfully negotiate with the new modes of governing populations and increase their visibility as a ??category,?? while some groups fail to do so. This paper seeks to bridge this research gap by comparing a successful and a failed mobilization in Calcutta. In both cases, use of the footpath has been central.The paper shows how the success of the hawkers in claiming the footpath is tied to the marginalization of the claims of the pavement dwellers that has (a) homogenized the representation of the footpath as only used by pedestrians and hawkers and (b) led to the elision of the pavement dwellers as a governmental category. The paper argues that by arrogating to themselves an archival function?which is conventionally associated with the governmental state?sections of population like the hawkers can become successful in their negotiations with the government.


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