Broken Dreams, Broken Cities?
A Comparison of Lived Realities in Mumbai and Paris
On the evening of Friday 13 November 2015, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in Paris and its northern suburb, Saint-Denis. Beginning at 9.30PM, three suicide bombers struck near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, followed by suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafés, restaurants and a music venue in central Paris. The attackers injured 268 people and killed 130 people, including 89 at the Bataclan theatre, where they took hostages before engaging in a stand-off with police. The attacks were the deadliest on France since World War II, and the deadliest in the European Union since the Madrid train bombings in 2004.
In the aftermath of the attacks, comparisons were drawn to the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. On 26th November 2008, 10 militant terrorists from Lakshar-e-Taiba carried out a series of 12 coordinated shootings, bombings and a hostage situation in two of Mumbai’s luxury hotels that lasted four days. The attacks killed 164 people and wounded 306. Both the Mumbai and Paris attacks had involved massive civilian casualties and hostages, had taken place in crowded, popular pedestrian locales, and had targeted distinctive icons of daily life and local identity — football stadiums, movie theatres, hotels and restaurants.
The attacks were one of the first occasions wherein the two cities — Mumbai and Paris — had been compared, perhaps unsurprisingly; who would equate the city of light, of Voltaire, to the city known best for its slums and slumdogs. Paris consistently ranks in the top 5 of the Global City Index for power, competitiveness, attractiveness, investments and connectivity, while continuing to a mecca for high fashion, tourism and art. In contrast, Mumbai tends to rank high on the corruption, overpopulation, and poverty scales, and exemplifies the mega city curse of widespread inequality, unemployment, poor public health, civic and educational standards. The two cities could not have more different reputations.
But perhaps there is more to both these cities than meets the eye?
Both Mumbai and Paris exist as cities of hope, of dreams and aspirations — you come here to make it, to find yourself, to hit the jackpot. Paris as a historic European metropolis has always wielded incredible influence and position on the continent and beyond in terms of art, culture, economy and innovation. As Mumbai prospered and the Indian economy liberalized, the city has become home to the largest number of millionaires and billionaires in India, and has the highest GDP of any city in South, West or Central Asia. This has only cemented Mumbai’s position as a migrant’s dream — every day, hundreds of migrants arrive in the city hoping to make it big in Bollywood or the Bombay Stock Exchange. Both these cities have come to symbolize the promise of economic and social mobility for countless.
But, since the 1970s, both Mumbai and Paris have gone through significant changes that have called into question this image of a city where dreams come true, to one where there is a shattered reality. In the last few decades, both cities have seen a turnaround in their economies — moving from manufacturing hubs and industry dominated cities to service based, symbolic economies that has rapidly changed the demographic of the workforce. Mirroring this changing work force has been a change in both cities’ spatial composition. There has been a rise in enclaves, gentrification and ghettos that has led to a breakdown of community and social and ethnic unrest. This social unrest has led to the rise of right-wing parties like Shiv Sena and the National Front that leverage fear and channel it into anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant hatred. The composition — both spatial and demographically — of both these cities has rapidly and dangerously changed.
This paper seeks to explore how an individual experiences these changed cities from an economic, spatial and political lens, to understand how Mumbai and Paris have both come undone. First, it will explore the changing economies of both cities to explore the development of a city as a brand, rather than a lived reality. Then, it will look at the spatial disunity in both cities caused by rising inequality between the rich and poor. Finally, it will look at how these two global cities are rapidly becoming provincialized due to increasing fundamentalism and intolerance.
Paris and Mumbai exist as longstanding binaries of the Global North and South. Paris, as a center of culture and capital for centuries, seemingly showcases the best of Western neo-liberalism, developmental policies and political mindsets of secularism and democracy. Paris is a much-touted example of a global city, a replicable and admired model for smaller, developing cities to attain. Mumbai on the other hand is invoked as an iconic example of a mega city — with its sprawling slums and poverty, it is the exemplification of the problems of urbanization. Most literature surrounding Mumbai (Planet of the Slums, Shadow Cities etc) have constructed and reinforced understandings of a global, and yet simultaneously Southern, urban predicament marked by seemingly intractable problems of poverty, marginality, and uncontrolled growth (Zeiderman 2008). Notions of the Global North/South binary have determined literature discourse around the two cities, as has urban shadow theory that results in cities in the Global South being understood in the context of cities in the North, rather than as unique entities that can add to the body of knowledge on urbanism.
This paper seeks to accomplish two goals. First, it seeks to reverse the academic discrimination against the Global South by exploring theoretical and spatial analytic frameworks of urbanism with Mumbai as a reference point and Paris as the comparison; and by looking at certain ‘Global South’ problems and transposing them onto the North to see if there is commonality — gentrification, poverty, inequality, unrest. Second, it explores the theories of gentrification through new globalism, urbanism as central planning and provincializing the global in the context of both cities, to see if there is indeed support for Neil Brenner’s theory of planetary urbanization as a process.
1 // From Manufacturing to FIRE to Symbolic
Over the last few decades, both Mumbai and Paris have seen changes in the structure of their economies, moving from a largely manufacturing and industrial based economies to service based and symbolic economies. In both cities, the majority of employment is in the tertiary sector (around 81% in Mumbai and 82% in Paris) involving financial services, entertainment and IT, as well as traditional service industries. Tourism and branding of the city has played a significant role in the development of Mumbai and Paris as they have moved closer to the being dominated by symbolic economies (Zukin).
Mills, Mumbai and Modernity
Mumbai’s evolution into a modern metropolis began in the mid-19th century with the first textile mill, the Bombay Spinning and Weaving Company, being set up in Tardeo in 1851. The industry grew substantially in the 1870s and 1880s, all through till the first half of the 20th century, leading to a massive concentration of mills and ancillary workshops, workers and job-seekers in Girangaon. The textile industry occupied center stage in the growth of Mumbai and the 130 mills that Mumbai was home to significantly influenced its economic, political and cultural character.
The textile mills drew migrant labor from across the state of Maharashtra and the Konkan coast. These laborers left their rural poverty in search of a better life that being a mill worker provided — mid-tier salary, job security, chawl housing (one-room tenements that sprang up across the city to house the influx of laborers). The chawls that were rapidly built around the mill area affected the geography of the city — the prime central areas on Lal Bagh, Parel, Worli, Sewri, Saat Rasta and Byculla were controlled by mills and mill workers.
In 1982, the general strike heralded the irreversible decline of the textile industry. The factors that lead to this were that the industry was largely indigenous and labour-intensive, and wilted under globalization. Mill owners shifted production to the power loom industry to areas on the outskirts of Mumbai and in the heart of Maharashtra such as s Bhiwandi, Ichalkaranji, Solapur, Jalgaon and Madanpura. By the early 1990s the number of workers in this industry had shrunk to one-fifth of their number in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The shutting down of the mills resulted in the mill workers losing their permanent jobs, social security, all the other facilities which they were entitled to, becoming a part of the urban poor which draws its sustenance through employment in the informal/unorganized sector. This pushed skilled labor into the informal sector resulting in the dramatic reduction of their income, which has also pushed them into informal housing. While the wages of textile mill workers were not very high, but they were enough for a decent living, a flat, to educate their children and to save; now, this lower middle class became part of the rising urban poor, unable to find jobs. The impact of the mills shutting down is reflected in the decline of employment in the organized sector and increase in the informal sector during the same time period.
In a study based on the 1961 Census data, Heather and Vijay Joshi found that 65 per cent of the city’s workforce was engaged in the organized sector while only 35 per cent were in the unorganized sector. Subsequent figures from the later censuses indicate that the shares of the two sectors reversed by 1991. The 1991 Census shows that 65 per cent of the workforce was engaged in activities in the unorganized sector while the organized sector employed only 35 per cent of the workforce.
A large part of the reason these mill workers were unable to find jobs was due to the increasing importance of finance in Mumbai’s economy and the growing specialization in certain types of manufacturing and services activities. By the late sixties, Mumbai had emerged as India’s financial capital, having located within it the country’s largest stock exchange and the headquarters of the Reserve Bank of India, the Life Insurance Corporation of India, the Industrial and Commercial Investment Corporation of India, the Industrial Development Bank of India, the Unit Trust of India, and the Industrial Reconstruction Bank of India; by the seventies, 70% of India’s bank deposits were held in Mumbai. The growth of the financial sector fostered the growth of other sectors such as telecommunications, IT, and real estate — all sectors that required highly skilled workers — positions that disenfranchised mill workers and dockhands could not fill.
The liberalization of the Indian economy in 1991, speeded up the accumulation of global capital and Mumbai’s place on the world stage as an increasingly global city, with the finance boom in the mid-nineties and the IT, export, services and outsourcing boom in 2000s. As the economy soared to new heights, the division between the formal and informal sector grew wider. Now that manufacturing had moved outside the city, the formal sector depended on highly skilled, highly educated workforce — those with an understanding of technology, of finance, of English. Those who had these skills were incorporated into the new economy; those who didn’t found themselves employed in the informal sector or in the service sector, working as domestic help, construction workers, chaiwallahs, hawkers, waiters and bell boys to those employed in the formal sector. Employment in the informal sector (wage labourers, hawkers) grew at a faster rate than that in the formal sector, resulting in its share of total employment increasing drastically over time
This created a significant divide between the formal and informal sectors, that reflected in the composition of the city — the formal sector became the wealthy upper middle class and upper class, while those in the informal sector became the working class. The rich kept getting richer, the middle class dissipating, and the urban poor growing. The trains full of migrants arriving daily to the city, still believing that the 1950s dream of escaping rural poverty in Mumbai, were faced with the crushing realization that either they could join the informal sector or the service industry — but they could never truly fulfill the Bombay dream of a well paying job or anything more than a slum dwelling. The new economy of Mumbai constricted opportunity, social mobility, and widened the socio-economic gap between the formal and informal sectors; an economy once filled with promise and hope now only served a select section of the people.
A Changing Paris
After World War II came to a close, the French government began to nationalize most sectors of the French economy; between 1944 and 1946 it nationalized the Renault factory, the coal mines and oil companies, Air France, and all the major banks and insurance companies. By 1948, French industrial production had come back to its prewar level, marking the beginning of the Trente Glorieuses, a period of rapid growth at 5–6.5%. With the economy booming, there was a massive influx of migrants, mostly from North Africa, on labor contracts.
Just as in Mumbai, the 1970s saw a radical change in this story of prosperity, both for native sons and migrant workers. Under the pressure from trade unions, salaries and the cost of production grew quickly (6.3% in 1970 to 8.5% percent in 1973), outpacing inflation. This combined with threats from globalization, Germany, Britain, USA and Japan outpacing France in modernization, and the change in oil prices after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, resulted in massive slow down of the economy and 10% unemployment. In response, the government privatized these industries once more.
In an effort to cut costs, once privatized, most manufacturing operations moved outside of the city (a pattern also seen in Mumbai); areas like the Hauts-de-Seine department expanded beyond belief. The suburbs became an attractive option for both citizens and businesses to the extent that in the 2000s, only 30% of the workforce worked inside the city of Paris proper, while 69.5% worked in the suburbs.
As manufacturing moved out, finance and business took over; over half of the city’s employees worked in the 39 business districts, engaging in finance, insurance or real estate. Media and information technology grew stronger as well, once again allowing a select group to benefit from the changing economy and accumulation of capital. Those belonging to the erstwhile manufacturing workforce who stayed in the city continued to battle unemployment, as well as crippling socio-economic conditions such as gentrification, ghettoization, and racism.
While Paris had always been a mecca of art, culture and luxury, the newly energized FIRE sector spurred the growth of the luxury industry as the city’s nouveau riche yearned for products and services befitting their stature, as well as globalization that created a market for these products outside of Paris’ arrondissements. Tourism became an increasingly important part of the Paris economy. Over the last 5 years, Paris has come second only to London in terms of number of visitors, revenue from tourists, and hotel occupancy. Hotels, cafes, attractions and facilities for tourists have become significant employers of the workforce that does not have the education or skills to join the FIRE sectors. As in Mumbai’s case, the low skills workers have become entrenched in the service economy, unable to access the benefits that this new economy has brought to the city.
While Mumbai is slowly developing into a symbolic economy, Paris has become one of the world’s premier symbolic economies. Sharon Zukin describes the rise of the new “symbolic economy” based on tourism, media and entertainment, in her book The Culture of Cities. In symbolic economies, the connection between real estate development and popular expression, and between elite visions and more democratic representations manifest as public cultures for these cities that represent only a slice of the economy, the elite slice. These economies are fixated on the production and consumption of culture, rather than any tangible products. Paris peddles itself as the city of romance, literature and luxury, and as more citizens and tourists buy into this image, visiting the Eiffel Tower and placing locks on the Bridge of Love, idling in cafes and purchasing LVMH goods, the economy prospers.
Such is the power of the symbolic economy that Paris went through a process of branding itself for leisure shopping through public-led tourism policies that focused on consumer capitalism rooted in the cultural. One such campaign, Shopping by Paris, focused on moving away from Paris’ urban branding of the “fantasy city” is distanced, in favor of the “cultural-creative city”, emphasizing local tangible and intangible heritage embedded in creative industries and products, and the “local shopping street”, emphasizing not standardized markets and neighborhood shopping venues that, unlike a Louis Vitton handbag, could not be purchased anywhere else. This strategy worked: according to the press releases distributed by the Paris Convention and Visitors, 60% of visitors to Paris revealed that shopping was one of their main motivations for deciding to visit the city.
Both Mumbai and Paris’ changing economies capture trends that are seen in the economies of rapidly globalizing cities. There is a repeated push out of manufacturing and traditionally labor intensive industries in favor of the FIRE sector. The changing economy that results in the accumulation of global capital that is accessible and beneficial to certain pockets of the population that have the skills to work in these sectors; those that do not meet the cut, find themselves unemployed, in the informal sector or as part of the urban poor. The modernization of both the cities economies lead to the end of the migrant dream: textile mills and factories had provided gainful employment and security, but now migrants either found themselves absorbed by the informal/service sectors, unable to rise in the socio-economic ranks, or were shoved outside the bounds of the city to find similar work. Thus, huge discrepancies arise in opportunities for high skilled and low skilled workers, reflected in polarization along class, gender and ethnic lines and an increasing joblessness and homelessness.
2 // Spatial Disunity — Ghettos and Enclaves
Hand in hand with a changing economy, comes the spatial reconstruction of a city; Mumbai and Paris are no exception. With the move from manufacturing to FIRE and informal/service sectors, both cities saw a redistribution of capital and power realized through a changing skyline. While the government involvement for both cities varied, Mumbai and Paris faced the same issues of enclaves for the rich, ghettoization of the poor in certain districts, and gentrification.
Mumbai as a Dual City
When Mumbai’s mills began their slow and inevitable decline at the end of the 1970s, tenements belonging to mill workers occupied prime real estate in the center of the city. Central Bombay was in part blocks upon blocks of one room chawls and in part reclaimed wetlands, previously uninhabitable land that had been converted through considerable investment of informal settlers’ own material and financial resources. The shutting down of the mills forced these mill workers and their families to move out, selling the homes and land that they had quite literally built to real estate developers.
As the real estate sector grew in the 90s, these 280 hectares mill land were converted into commercial and residential spaces for the rising middle and upper class. Banks, publishing houses, advertising agencies and telecom services along with high rise apartments with names such as Phoenix Towers and Falcons Castle are now a part of the skyline along with the chimneys of the old mills. Trendy restaurants were opened for the new class of people that for decades had been the home of millhands.
This mirrored a larger trend seen in the development of Mumbai where creating a global, well-managed city was far more important than providing for all citizens and uplifting the poor. As Mumbai’s population outpaced its infrastructure and services in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a huge need for providing for the poor and improving the overall quality of life in the metropolis; however, politicians and planners allied themselves with business and commercial interests. Thus, while large projects in housing, transportation, recreation land, ownership, health and education took place, the benefits and share in the built environment hardly reached the larger section of the population. The segmentation got more pronounced as more of the city was swallowed up by private developers, leading to a visible dualism in the social and economic space of the metropolis.
With further expansion of globalization, Mumbai’s policy became proactive in making the city a significant center of finance, services and TNC headquarters at the cost of industrial decline in many areas. The poor were pushed out from old industrial cores to the outskirts, ghettoized in peripheral slums leading to massive intracity migration. Modernized and sanitized enclaves were built within the existing city, replete with five-star hotels and fine restaurants and shopping, to attract investment and house both the nouveau riche and elite.
Mumbai became the costliest city in India, and one of the most divided. Looking at the prices of different areas in the city, one could tell where the enclaves were, the business districts and the ghetto slums. South Bombay with the Nariman Point business district was home to only the richest of the rich, with astronomical property prices and cost of living. Due to the highly competitive and increasingly exclusionary real estate market, prices have skyrocketed so much so that a mid-income professional would take 13 years to accumulate enough money for paying the down payment for buying a property in Mumbai, furthering the notion that social mobility has become seemingly impossible.
In contrast, the urban poor, living below the dollar a day mark, occupy 8% of the city’s area while constituting over half of Mumbai’s population. Eighty per cent of these live in homes less than 100 square feet in area. The living situations for the rest of the population aren’t much better — approximately 55% of Mumbai residents presently live in settlements, and another 25% in low-quality, dilapidated housing.
Paris as a Rich Man’s City
All the bad things we say about Paris are true,” the French publisher and writer Eric Hazan wrote in his book, Paris sous tension (Paris Under Stress, La Fabrique Éditions, 2011). “That the preppy streets of the center look like the duty free area of an international airport, that the apartheid between rich and poor is at its severest, that the slice of working-class areas in the north and the east shrinks everyday,” With the creation of the 1970s les banlieues, the increasing gentrification of old Parisian neighborhoods, and the influx of global elite and tourists, the city has become more and more segregated.
While the Mumbai government sided with developers and ignored the urban poor and informal sector, allowing them to fend for themselves, the Parisian government was directly responsible for the slow migration and segregation of the poor into suburban ghettos. In the 1970s, coinciding with the economic slowdown and subsequent moving out of industries from the capital, the government constructed suburban low-income housing projects (Habitations à loyer modéré or HLM) in the banlieues.
Beginning in the 1970s, several suburbs of Paris, (especially those in the north and east) experienced deindustrialisation, as factories closed or moved farther out; the government responded by building HLMs to account for the loss of jobs and income in the areas. This created a poverty trap, where once-thriving residential cités became ghettos for African and Arab immigrants, with few skills and high unemployment. These ghettos are hotbeds of crime, racism, and fundamentalism. While they may be more structurally sound than the slums of Dharavi, they are essentially an expression of the same urban dilemma of uncontrolled, unsolvable urban poverty. While Dharavi operates its own version of a shadow, informal economy, the banlieues have their own law and order system, identity, religion and law enforcement. These ghettos in both cities have similar themes of alienation, of segregation from the economic benefits that the new economy has brought to the city, and of a separate identity from mainstream public culture.
At the same time, some neighborhoods within the city of Paris and the western and southern suburbs successfully shifted their economic base from traditional manufacturing to high-value-added services and high-tech manufacturing, giving these neighborhoods the highest per-capita incomes in France, and among the highest in Europe. So life in central Paris grew astronomically more expensive — the city is the fifth most expensive in the world for luxury housing. Given the height restrictions and lack of new construction in the city, the increasing wealthy upper class has taken over more space, gentrifying more neighborhoods in the city.
Working class areas were turned into upper middle-class, or bobo (bourgeois bohemian) neighborhoods, forcing the poorest to move even further away from the city center. Formerly so-called ‘intellectual quarters’ — such as Saint-Germain-des-Prés and Odéon — have become gentrified to the extent that few ordinary Parisians can afford to live there. At the cafe tables where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir once held court, the talk is of property prices and holidays in the Maldives. “Except for the surly waiters, still faithful to the long Parisian tradition of grumpy service, you could easily be in South Kensington — a posh and soulless inner-city enclave for the international super-rich.” The Jewish district of Marais has nothing much left of its heritage except for shops with signs in Hebrew. Instead, rising rents have displaced old tenants, and the old delis and cafes have made way for a thriving gay community. “There are still cake shops along Rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie and Rue des Rosiers, but fewer offer challah and strudel. At the two Legay Choc bakeries, the big sellers are bread rolls and jam tarts shaped like hefty genitalia.”
The center of the city has turned into an enclave for the rich. While there is no ostensible wall separating this enclave, it is French citizenship and ancestry, wealth and education that guard the gates to this enclave.
In the recent years, city governments in both Mumbai and Paris have realized that this dualism and division of the city into the have and have-nots is unsustainable, and creates conditions ripe for social unrest and crime. To reverse decades worth of damage, both cities have come up with policies — Slum Rehabilitation Authority housing projects (SRA) in Mumbai and “right to first refusal” in Paris.
In Mumbai, the SRA housing projects deem that if land on which slum dwellers currently reside is sold to developers, the developers may do whatsoever they wish with the land as long as they provide in-situ rehousing projects for these displaced slum dwellers. While this has ensured that slum dwellers aren’t pushed out of the city, away from their communities and the informal economy, this has led to further enclaves and ghettos. In contrast to the gated communities and enclaves that spatialize inequality in many cities in-situ SRA developments highlight and concentrate the experience of urban inequality. The rich and the poor exist side by side, without any contact, with different access to services — luxury apartments next to social housing projects.
Through “right to first refusal”, when apartments at any of the 257 addresses determined by the city come up for sale, they must by law be offered first to the city of Paris. The apartment should still be sold at the market price — but the price offered would nonetheless be decided by the city, not the seller. If the landlord doesn’t like what’s offered, he or she can appeal to an independent judge to have it re-priced, or can withdraw the property from the market. What the landlord can’t do, however, is sell the apartment on to someone else without the city having bowed out first. Through this Paris is hoping to stop the rampant gentrification in the city that is making certain historic districts unlivable and unaffordable, unless you are wealthy or a tourist, acting as a social mix monitor. However, this plan has a huge economic cost — 850 million euros at net present value — and will take a significantly long period of time.
Looking at the spatial disunity in Mumbai and Paris, one can see how a city’s economy and capital plays such an important role in constructing its geography. Capital’s endless capacity to first invest in built environment and then destroy it in order to create newer opportunities for capital accumulation has been of course key to Bombay’s capitalist development. For Paris, capital has provided the impetus to create the social housing projects while simultaneously increasing rent prices. As the state cedes more and more space to private capital and takes less responsibility as a guarantor of housing and services, both cities find themselves creating cities within cities — ghettos for the poor and enclaves for the rich. The informal sector and the poor will be pushed out to less valuable and visible spaces, while the formal city is likely to become more and more globalized with increasing presence of global consumer culture in retail shops, banks, services and recreational activities. Those in living in the ‘other Mumbai’ and ‘other Paris’ will be physically connected to the global city, but will not receive access to any socio-economic benefits.
3 // Provincialization & Fundamentalism
“The blasts, it is said, turned the city itself into a weapon and war machine against itself as cosmopolis. But this fragile cosmopolis, it seems, was little more than a space of neighborhoods with identifiable “sensitive areas” and “trouble spots” (to use the language of police maps), which would erupt periodically into paroxysms of predictable violence.”— Rao
“So as France grieves, it is also faced with profound questions about its future: How large is the radicalized part of the country’s Muslim population, the largest in Europe? How deep is the rift between France’s values of secularism, of individual, sexual and religious freedom, of freedom of the press and the freedom to shock, and a growing Muslim conservatism that rejects many of these values in the name of religion?” — New York Times
The creation of the ‘other city’ in both Mumbai and Paris has led to intense inequality, alienation and social unrest, stemming from perceived discriminatory policies, poverty and unemployment. This unrest has resulted in riots over the last two decades that have left both cities aflame. The violence that seems to stem from these urban ghettos has also given rise to a dangerous fundamental element in both cities, based on an anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant platform.
In the aftermath of the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya by the right wing pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janta Party triggered violence against and from Muslim communities across India. Mumbai, which had been relatively secular and tolerant with Hindus and Muslims living side by side, erupted in riots through late 1992 and early 1993 during which thousands of Muslims were massacred, and about a quarter million of them fled the city.
In the aftermath of the attacks, the Sri Krishna commission was formed to investigate the causes and culprits. While the report identified the immediate causes as the demolition of Babri Masjid, the aggravation of Muslim sentiments by the Hindus with their celebration rallies, and the insensitive and harsh approach of the police while handling the protesting mobs, which initially were not violent, it traced the primary causes to the issues that this paper has discussed earlier. The report listed class conflict, economic competition, unemployment and population density as guiding factors to the violence. (This mirrors research around the 1994 Rwanda genocide that attributed pressures on land and space as the cause of the violence, and ethnic tensions as the catalyst.) The underlying causes of the rioting show just how much citizens’ pshyches are affected by spatial and economic pressure, and how a lack of opportunity and equality can manifest in an incredibly violent manner.
When economic pressures were at their peak in 2008, with unemployment at a all time high in Mumbai due to the financial crisis, the city once again broke into riots where native Maharashtrians turned violent against migrant workers from the Northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The rioting stemmed from accusations that these ‘Northerners’ were taking jobs of Maharashtrians, and didn’t cease until the government had assured concessions and quotas for the native youth. Once again, this shows how an inability to cater to the working class in the face of changing economies can erupt in tensions.
Paris witnessed similar patterns of violence, due to the state’s failure to provide for all sections of society. The widening socio-economic gap between these central Paris and the banlieues led to periodic clashes between young residents of the northeast housing projects and the police, that finally came to their head during the 2005 riots. Between 27 October and 14 November 2005, young residents of low-income housing projects in Clichy-sous-Bois, rioted, after two young men fleeing the police were accidentally electrocuted. The riots gradually spread to other suburbs and then across France, as rioters burned schools, day-care centres and other government buildings and almost nine thousand cars. The riots caused an estimated 200 million Euros in property damage, and led to almost three thousand arrests. On 14 November 2005, as the riots ended, President Jacques Chirac blamed the rioters for a lack of respect for the law and French values, but also condemned inequalities in French society and “the poison of racism.” The causes mirrored those attributed to the 1992–93 Mumbai riots in the Sri Krishna commission report in, and the perceived underlying causes for the 2008 riots: chronic poverty, unemployment, and inequality, with no way out of it.
Archive footage from 2005 shows one of several nights of unrest in Paris during the urban riots. Dozens of vehicles…www.theguardian.com
Rise of the Right Wing
In the past few decades, both Mumbai and Paris have seen the rise of right wing parties that stoke ethnic and religious tensions, playing on the dissatisfaction of the different elements of the public who are looking for scapegoats for the increasing inequality, violence and resource constraints.
In Mumbai, that part is the Shiv Sena, a group formed in the 1960s that really rose to prominence after the 1992–93 riots. The party’s ideology promotes regional chauvinism (in which Mumbai belongs to Maharashtra, the state in which it is located, and thus to Maharashtrians), and Hindutva, or Hindu supremacism (in which Mumbai is part of the sacred geography of a Hindu nation and Muslims are “outsiders”). The Shiv Sena links the struggle over economic resources in the city to the influx of poor, disenfranchised and unemployed migrants who came to the city and took advantage of its civic resources and stole jobs from the common Maharashtrian, thus promoting ethnic chauvinism.
The Shiv Sena’s past actions have included threatening a boycott of the Sikhs in protest against the killings of Hindus in Punjab by the terrorists (Maharashtra Times, Mumbai, March, 6,1988), digging the cricket pitch in order to sabotage the India-Pakistan cricket match (Maharashtra Times, Mumbai, October, 23,1991), the organization of ‘Maha-aratis’ in January 1993, the campaign to detect and deport the ‘Bangladeshis’ hiding in Mumbai (Loksatta, Pune, November, 21,1994), disturbing the Gazal Mehfil of Gulam Ali (Sunday Times of India, Pune, May,3,1998), and banning Valentine’s Day. They are anti-Western, anti-migrant, anti-Muslim all at once, and their actions have called into question Mumbai’s cosmopolitan secular image. The flight of capital to India’s new high-tech cities, and the flight of culture and cosmopolitanism into provincialisms because of routine attacks on artists and the burning of books and films, all indicate that Mumbai is the crystallization of the right-wing culturalist and political agenda to provincialize the city.
The Shiv Sena’s counter part in Paris is Marie Le Pen’s National Front. National Front espouses the same principles of immigrants being free-riders on the system, stealing jobs from locals, and of Muslims, as a violent breed.
The National Front runs on a harshly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim platform. Le Pen, who vociferously opposes France providing asylum to Middle Eastern refugees, wants to reduce immigration by 2,000 percent and make it much more difficult for migrants already in the country to attain citizenship. The FN says it has zero tolerance for undocumented immigrants, and hopes to ban dual nationality for non-Europeans. The far-right party also wants priority to be given to French citizens over foreigners for jobs and social programs. FN supporters often chant slogans like “France to the French.” In court, a National Front supporter referred to foreign-born French citizens as “dogs” and “barbarians.”
Parties like the National Front were once considered tiny minorities in both France, and in Europe. But today, the National Front is considered mainstream, taking 25 percent of the vote in local elections this year. Polls show that Le Pen may be one of just two candidates to make into the second round of the 2017 presidential election amid rising anti-immigrant sentiment, showing just how strongly many French citizens feel this anger towards immigrants and the economic pressures of the system.
The anti-immigrant/migrant sentiment in both Mumbai and Paris stems largely from the dissipating of the middle class and social mobility in both cities. As housing becomes more expensive, gentrification becomes the norm, the native Maharashtrians/Parisians find themselves locked out of the system, and find immigrants an easy target to blame for the economic woes that are plaguing the system.
Violence and fundamentalism in both Mumbai and Paris over the past two decades has led to a increasingly heated discourse surrounding the right to the city — on the dual levels of the right to accessing the city as It stands, and the right to change the city. Both cities have an inherently secular fabric, a historic propensity for attracting migrant populations, and a global outlook in terms of culture, ideas and flow of capital, yet the inability of the government to provide for changing economies and influxes of population have resulted in urbicide across Mumbai and Paris. The strain of resources — jobs, land, opportunity — has resulted in these cities turning their backs on their long-held values. The taking up of arms stems not from a desire for violence, neither does the anti-immigrant mentality stem from a hatred of immigrants — but rather spatial and economic forces have created frustrations and anger. Unless this anger is turned on its head, the progress of Mumbai and Paris towards becoming a global city, will be undone by the provincialization of both cities by their violent and extreme elements.
In looking at the last four decades of growth and change in Mumbai and Paris, too very different cities — culturally, geographically, and historically — one can see similar trends. The presence of these trends contests the Global North/South binary, showcasing that cities across the globe share similar patterns of growth, face similar problems, and react in similar manners. It also contests the idea that mega-cities and problems of urban poverty, inequality and violence only exist in the Global South.
In the unraveling of Mumbai and Paris, we see the story of countless cities as they globalize — unable to keep pace with the accumulation of capital, influx of people or the speed of globalization, public good falls by the wayside to make way for the constructing and deconstructing of global capital. The issues that both cities have faced — a changing economy that locks out large portions of the current workforce, the rising gulf between the upper class and working class realized through the spatial reconfiguration of the city, and the resulting unrest, violence and fundamentalism caused by the inability of the state to include all in its march to progress — should be extrapolated and examined across cities in the North and South, to ascertain if there is indeed a set of best practices for planetary urbanization.
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