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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Colin McFarlane

McFarlane, C. Geographical Imaginations and spaces of political engagement: Examples from the Indian Alliance. Antipode. 2004;36:890-916.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper is concerned with the various ways in which geographical imaginations are inflected in politics. It draws on examples from a threeway partnership of civil society organisations based in Mumbai, India. This movement seeks to reconfigure the governance of antipoverty strategies by placing "poor people" at the centre of its activities. The partnership, which refers to itself as the Alliance, is involved in the mobilisation and creation of a range of alternative geographical imaginations that are inflected in the production of new spaces of political engagement. By exploring two of the Alliance's strategies—enumerations and exhibitions—I will illustrate some of the ways in which these alternative geographical imaginations feature in the creation of spaces of political engagement. These strategies involve the practical demonstration of the capacities of the poor to donors and states, and reflect a particular conception of the poor and social change.

The spaces of political engagement formed in part through the Alliance's work depend significantly on a commitment to nonparty alignment, an approach that has received criticism from NGOs and commentators involved with urban poverty. I will argue that the Alliance represents a broad development alternative—rather than a form of alternative development—which nonetheless is making substantial progress in the politics of citizenship in Mumbai.


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