The Dying Cadre - Tracing the Ordinary Ethics of Transitions

Authors: Sangeeta Banerji*, Rutgers University
Topics: Urban Geography, Development, Political Geography
Keywords: Bureaucracy, state/space, neoliberalization, digital geography
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 53
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Emerging from the promise of “minimum government, maximum governance” made by Narendra Modi, the new technologies introduced within the urban bureaucracy managing the megacity of Mumbai has led to a significant modification in the composition of its labor force. As the largest employer in Mumbai, the urban bureaucracy has a whopping 150 thousand employees distributed over four grades and more than fifty service departments. However, due to the neoliberalization of India's state spaces and the advance of the digital technologies within them, many employees within the bureaucracy have been demarcated as the “Dying Cadre.” In this paper, I discuss the implications of the transition from paper technologies to that of the database within the bureaucracy by focusing on one such employee known as the tracer. In the Development Plan department of this bureaucracy, known to control the use and development of land in the city - the tracer is the actor who provides information on adherence or variance from the land-use codes by tracings from the statutory map. The tracer has recently been designated as “dying” due to the introduction of the Geographical Information Systems (GIS).This new technology of the GIS database provided by the multinational software conglomerate of ESRI has significantly challenged the urban bureaucracy's routine practices. In this paper, through sixteen months of participant observation at the “tracer’s station,” within the bureaucracy, I illustrate the changing materiality of the quotidian practices of the state in Mumbai to decipher its emerging contradictions.

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