UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Brokered borders : relational infrastructures of water access in segregated Ahmedabad, India Mawani, Vrushti


This dissertation examines the role of religious difference in shaping planning for water access in urban India. Uneven water access is widely linked with discriminatory urban planning practices. However, these broad associations preclude the role of other actors (builders, politicians, NGO workers, community leaders, etc.) in mediating technical plans and influencing water access. Equally, simplistic assumptions of religious discrimination obscure the nuanced understanding required for re-imagining planning approaches to improve water access. This challenge is amplified in divided cities, where uneven water access materially reproduces and emphasizes exclusion. I investigate how the interests and experiences of diverse actors across scales (re)produce uneven water access in segregated Muslim areas of Ahmedabad. Employing an ethnographic approach, I: (a) illustrate how religious difference mediates access to water in Ahmedabad’s Muslim areas; (b) locate the role of planning in how religious difference acquires infrastructural form; (c) make visible the everyday water struggles of Ahmedabad’s Muslim residents; and, (d) illuminate what makes it possible for certain actors to broker water access water in these contested sites. I shed light on the relational infrastructures of water access, i.e., the multi-scalar social, political, economic, technical, and emotional networks that influence water access. Uneven water access in Ahmedabad’s Muslim areas is bound up with practices of planning, but in ways not reducible to discriminatory ideas, intentions, or actions of planners. Instead, actors influencing planning and water governance from multiple institutional and spatial scales enlist discourses of ‘difference’ and ‘(il)legality’ to suit their own political and economic interests. These actors are located across state/non-state, formal/informal, legal/illegal, and most importantly, Hindu/Muslim boundaries. Equally, uneven water access is experienced as everyday emotional and embodied struggles which often subvert the implementation of technical plans meant to improve water access. This dissertation invites planners to attend more carefully to how multi-scalar interests and experiences interact with planning to shape community-level water access in segregated cities.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International