SUBURBIN – Subaltern Urbanization in India

The SUBURBIN project questions both the scholarly representation and the measurement of the ongoing process of shift from rural to urban areas. It seeks to counter a vision of urbanization as reduced to a process of agglomeration and a competition between global cities. The project’s hypothesis is that there exists a diversity of trajectories of urbanization, which it seeks to understand with a focus on India’s small towns. It aims at bringing these marginal small agglomerations to the forefront of the analysis of urbanization dynamics, which are more complex than what is often presented: beyond the ongoing growth of megacities, a double process of slowing down of residential migration and an increase in the number of small towns coexist.

The principal research questions are: (i) What are the characteristics of these small towns or "grey spaces", which are both recipients and motors of economic change? (ii) What are their contemporary economic dynamics? (iii) How does land get used and how is land ownership transferred? What are the growing non-agricultural uses of land? How are these changes spatially located? (iv) How is the distribution of public goods in emerging towns shaped, and what are the main explanatory factors behind the existing distribution?

The project proposes to combine quantitative and qualitative analyses. The quantitative dimension will enrich a geo-localized and rich database consisting of cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants into which existing statistical data will be fed (e-Geopolis programme). The qualitative dimension is based on fieldwork observation, using detailed case-studies regarding access to and distribution of land, socio-spatial distribution of basic services, and economic activities.
SUBURBIN is a joint project of IFP and CSH, under the responsibility of Eric Denis and Marie-Hélène Zérah. It brings together a team of scholars from various disciplinary backgrounds (economics, geography, urban studies and, anthropology).

Funding sources

- Go to the website French National Agency for Research

Institutional partnerships

- Go to the website Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi
- Go to the website CPR : Center for Policy Research (New Delhi, India)
- Go to the website Department of Geography, University of Burdwan
- Go to the website IFP : Institut Français de Pondichéry (Pondicherry, India)
- Go to the website SPA, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi
- Go to the website Urban Research & Policy Program, National Institute of Advance Study, Bangalore

Related book :

Urban Policies and the Right to the City in India : Rights, Responsibilities and Citizenship

Working Paper :

Measuring Urbanization around a Regional Capital, the Case of Bhopal District
  • Participants :
    Julien BORDAGI
    Basudeb CHAUDHURI
    Eric DENIS
    Samanta GOPA
    Marius-Gnanou KAMALA
    Robert KAST
    Frédéric LANDY
    Diya MEHRA
    Punia MILAP
    Partha Mukhopadhyay
    Joan PEREZ
    Benjamin SOLOMON
    Marimoutou VELAYOUDOM
    Marie-Hélène ZERAH