Shifting approaches to slums in Chennai: Political coalitions, policy discourses and practices

Tara Saharan (Corresponding Author), Karin Pfeffer, Isa Baud

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Slums pose a persistent challenge for fast growing urban areas in the global South, despite several decades of policy intervention. While Chennai has adopted several strategies ranging from upgrading to reconstruction, the city has been unable to deliver its target of ‘clearing’ slum settlements. Through an analysis of four enumeration reports and a look at the evolving political contexts and subsequent practices, we illustrate the evolution of slum policy approaches in Chennai since the 1970s. The analysis shows slum practices in Chennai continue to be characterized by an underlying continuity, with relocation as the dominant mode of operation since the nineties. However, approaches to slums have also evolved from paternalistic socialism with in-situ development in the seventies, to approaches characterized by affordability and cost recovery in the eighties, to the aesthetics of global cities in the nineties, to the technology driven, to slum-free ‘smart city’ discourse currently in vogue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-471
Number of pages18
JournalSingapore Journal of Tropical Geography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


  • politics
  • Chennai
  • Slum
  • policy discourses
  • enumeration
  • practices
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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