My ongoing research focuses on the political ecology of urban infrastructures, and the social and material relations that they entail. Through anthropological research, I study the ways in which natural resources and specific configurations of ‘the public’ are mobilized to assemble urban development and environmental projects in the cities of Mumbai.
My first book length manuscript, Infrapolitics: The Social Life of Water in Mumbai, is based on two years of ethnographic research in Mumbai, India. Framed by anxious debates about urbanization in the south on one hand, and disappearing water resources on the other, the book is an ethnographic account of how water is moved to and through the cities of Mumbai, and accessed by those living in the its settlements. I show how, to get water, settlers need to assemble their hydraulic infrastructure not only by mobilizing pumps, pipes, and plumbers, but also city engineers, politicians, friends and family. By drawing attention to these social and material infrastructures, the book describes how the city’s public works work, and illustrates how politically marginalized residents access water despite the exclusions of states and markets.
In 2008, I collaborated with an arts collective, CAMP, and two youth groups, Aagaz and Aakansha to produce Ek Dozen Paani (One Dozen Waters), a series of twelve short films. The films have been made with the members of the youth groups shooting on their own, bringing their footage into a collective pool, and writing over images in analytical, diarisitic or essay styles. Taken together, the twelve stories speak of water’s time and place, of leaky systems and subterranean flows, of struggle and/over imagination.