Urban and Urbanization

Victim, broker, activist, fixer: Surviving dispossession in working class Lahore

Recent debates in urban geography and anthropology have urged a rethinking of ‘marginal’ groups, viewing them not only as intimately connected to the state and its power, but also as offering a lens into alternate modes of dwelling, endurance and political change. We reflect upon the conceptual possibilities of such forms of endurance by examining how those residing in urban margins utilise, enable and inhabit connections to centres of power when faced with dispossession. Focusing on evictions that took place in Lahore (Pakistan) between 2015 and 2017, to acquire land for the Orange Line Metro Train, we follow the actions and narrations of one interlocutor, as he confronted the loss of his home. Unravelling how survival at the margins depends upon tactility and a continuous shifting between roles and modes of actions, we highlight the unique and particular ways in which evictions are lived and embodied. Including such shifting modes of negotiating in conceptualisations of the ‘political’ in the Global South does indeed offer potentialities, but we urge caution in over-reading into these possibilities. Shape-shifting and movement in embodied roles allows for a certain kind of thriving in precarity but rarely allows inhabitants – as they so aspire – to override it altogether.

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Volume 39 Issue 6

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