Practices of Legibility Making in Indian Cities: Property Mapping Through Geographic Information Systems and Slum Listing in Government Schemes

C. Richter, P.Y. Georgiadou

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Property mapping through use of geographic information systems (GIS) and slum listing are practices of official knowledge production in government improvement schemes in Indian cities. Our comparative analysis of these two practices is in concert with recent amplifications of Scott's analytical scheme around the notion of legibility making. In both cases knowledge production in practice encounters an “amorphous state.” Government representatives and interests frequently intermingle with non-governmental representatives and interests. This influences knowledge production in practice with different implications for government scheme implementation and participation in urban governance. We find that slum listing supports scheme implementation better than GIS property mapping. The latter seeks to translate the notion of a clear delineation between state and non-state into organizational and technical design for legibility making. It stops short of reaching larger aims of the scheme and comes to focus on the problem of incomplete knowledge and mechanisms of self-referential monitoring. The more organic practice of slum listing involves dispersed paper and desktop technologies and relies on traditional sites of knowledge production in the city. It is adjusted to and enacted by an amorphous state. The official knowledge produced is temporary in nature, and as such allows for incremental and partially reversible scheme implementation. Slum listing retains channels of negotiation with city administration and politicians, which are vital for poorer sections of the urban populace. Our study is relevant to policy and future research, because as of 2012 the new national slum improvement scheme requires implementation of GIS also for slum data collection and management. The question is, whether the new scheme will run into similar problems as GIS property mapping or whether it puts at risk existing channels of negotiation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-93
Number of pages21
JournalInformation technology for development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2016


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