Urban and Urbanization

Shifting peripheries: Dhaka's rickshaw garages and mess dormitories as spaces of work and movement

This article considers how urban peripheries are made and unmade by forms of “shifting”. We examine these shifts from the perspective of rickshaw garages and mess dormitories in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which both offer makeshift working and living arrangements to rural–urban migrants. By explicitly situating these spaces as part of the movements and crisscrossing trajectories that animate urban peripheries, we challenge the tendency in urban scholarship to analyze peripheral and marginalized spaces primarily through the lens of habitation. Breaking with residentialist and sedentarist approaches to urban space, we present rickshaw garages and mess dormitories as spaces that are enabling and undergoing various forms of shifting, as their occupants move and alternate between different places, neighborhoods, and spatial arrangements to establish a continuity of work and income. We argue that these forms of manoeuvring are made possible by a degree of spatial malleability that reflects the territorial impermanence of the periphery itself, which is continuously pushed sideways through tandem processes of precariousness and improvement. By directing attention to the “shifting” in “makeshift”, we contribute to a less static understanding of how labor migrants try to hold their place in the city amidst wider processes of exclusion, expansion, and densification.

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Volume 41 Issue 2

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