The city of New Delhi has been scarred by multiple evictions that have altered its landscape over the last two decades. How does one understand these evictions? Bhan’s article argues that the meaning of an eviction is particular within an auto-constructed city, that is, a city built largely in tension with formal logics of planning and law. Here, the basti, the slum, the shack, or the favela are not just settlements but modes of urbanization within which subaltern urban residents negotiate—incrementally, over time, and continuously—their presence in as well as their right to the city. This is a mode in which citizenship is built, acquired, and performed. This essay looks at the city from the sites of evictions within it, asking what they tell us about the nature and possibilities of citizenship in the contemporary Indian city. It argues that postcolonial debates on citizenship have remained insufficiently attentive to both spatial and urban citizenship, thereby leaving theory unable to understand fully what it means for democratic and urban politics for a city to be reconfigured through eviction. It suggests that taking spatial illegality seriously may be one way to address this gap.

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