Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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p. vii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xi

This is a book about poverty. But it was never meant to be about the oldfashioned subject of poverty. This is a book about Calcutta, the “black hole” of Third World urbanization. But it was never meant to be about urbanization under conditions of abject poverty. This book started out as a research project about the reforms of the world’s longest-serving democratically elected communist government: the Left Front of West...

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1. Opening Moves

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pp. 1-24

The annual book fair is a well-established tradition in Calcutta, an urban ritual played out under a late-winter sun with dense lines of bamboo and cloth stalls, barely holding up to the swirls of dust stirred up by the shuffling crowds. In many ways, the fairs are meant to signal Bengal’s participation in a world arena of literary production with stalls representing particular nations and their...

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2. The Politics of Poverty

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pp. 25-78

In the winter of 1996 the central government of India announced an expansion of the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS), a rationing system that provides foodgrains at subsidized rates to urban and rural consumers. Launched as a major poverty alleviation measure, the new intervention was specifically to target households below the poverty line, providing them with restricted quantities of...

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3. Domestications

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pp. 79-132

Mala lives in a house on stilts suspended over a murky pond. On sunny days the rippling water underneath speckles the dark interior of the shack with a kaleidoscope of colors. The youngest of her children, a three-yearold girl, would like to capture these shards of light in her tiny hands. But she contents herself with watching the dancing of the light from the safety of a high bed that occupies..

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4. Dreaming of Tombstones

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pp. 133-188

“I dream of a landscape of tombstones,” he said, leaning back into his leather chair, pushing away from the wide expanse of his meticulously tidy glass-topped desk. He continued: You want me to tell you who owns these vast expanses of land on the eastern fringes? Well, I can’t tell you that. I can tell you that here there are squatters and colonies, illegal housing developments and legal housing developments; land held hostage and land for which blood is being shed...

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5. Disruptions

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pp. 189-220

If ethnographies are spatialized interventions in fields of power, as depicted in my attempt to recover an unmapped Calcutta, then so are they negotiations, often clumsy, of space and place. I started my narrative of the city with a story about my encounter with a particular kind of public in a globalized Calcutta: the imaged public of the 1997 book fair, the remaking of the regime’s sociocultural...

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Postscript(s)

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pp. 221-236

How is a city to be narrated? A city that at its surface is a multifarious collage, and, at closer look, ubiquitous in its depth?1 What should be the culmination of such narrations? In the multiple forms that this narrative has taken, I have struggled with the ways in which I have to end in writing what I dare not otherwise end—an intimate connection with the city of my birth, and the iconic city of “Third World” gloom. In this postscript to a requiem I present the multiple endings that I have composed, each...

Methodological Appendix: Research Strategies and Data Sources

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pp. 237-248

Notes

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pp. 249-256

Bibliography

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pp. 257-278

Index

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pp. 279-289