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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

McFarlane, C. & Desai, R. Sites of entitlement claim, negotiation and struggle in Mumbai. Environment and urbanization. 2015;27:441-454.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper develops a conception of “sites of entitlement” as a basis for better understanding how infrastructure and services are perceived and experienced in informal settlements. While legal and policy frameworks are often viewed as the source of entitlements to infrastructure and services, the complexity of provision, access and negotiation in informal settlements demands a conception of entitlement that exceeds those domains. Based on ethnographic research on sanitation and water in informal settlements in Mumbai, we focus on the ways in which people’s everyday experiences, interactions and practices constitute sites of entitlement. These sites are unevenly produced, contested, often in flux and ambivalent, sometimes made through collective struggle and at other times through quiet individual practice, and always constituted by social relations. Sites of entitlement emerge in close relation to moral economies, and are characterized by often profound and – for research, policy and practice – challenging levels of spatial and temporal variation. We argue that sites of entitlement are vital for thinking through the possibilities of realizing the universal right to sanitation and water

Department of Geography