Right to the City
Right to the City
  • Inroduction
  • Shweta Wagh
  • Malav Kanuga
  • Hussain Z Indorewala
  • Simpreet Singh


This Summer School will be a 10 day intensive that will introduce the concept, practice and possibilities of the Right to the City framework. Beginning with the history of urban social movements in the city of Mumbai, the program will explore the origins and nature of urban struggles around the world, and debate the potential of the Right to the City framework for a political re-imagination of urban life. The program will include city walks, seminars, presentations and conversations - and is open students, researchers, activists, and anyone who is interested in these questions.

Course Description:

This is an important moment for urban struggles around the world. Displacement, privatization and commodification of urban space are everywhere defining the politics of cities and how they are lived, made, and reproduced. They are also increasingly the points of articulation of struggles around housing, education, livelihood, food, and around which people, in defense of and in search of renewed publics, forge a political commons.

In 1967, Henri Lefebvre coined the phrase “right to the city” which he said is meant to gather “the interests...of the whole society and firstly of all who inhabit.” The right to the city, in Lefebvre’s formulation, was to be a rallying point for the urban masses to consider the city itself as both terrain and object of their larger struggles to upend the system of capitalist accumulation. It was a “cry and demand...a response to the existential pain of a withering crisis of everyday life in the city,” against the generalized conditions of social exclusion, marginalization, as well as alienation.

Eschewing fragmented, reformist, or tactical maneuvers, it was a call for a fundamental restructuring of social relations in the city. Yet, despite the contemporary rise of urban struggles around the world, the radical content of this idea has been increasingly diluted by NGOs as well as state and private developmental agencies. Undeterred, urban social movements have renewed its radical vision and given it force and substance, making it a central formulation in their calls for societal change. In 2010, The Social Urban Forum (SUF) that took place in Rio de Janeiro called for “the construction of different cities, receptive to its inhabitants instead of receptive to capital” by “the elimination of the great wealth and power inequalities in our societies” and “for reassuring the right to the city, understood as a collective right of all to a city without discrimination...” The SUF poured scorn over what they called the twenty-first century global city which is:

“...a transfigured city, transformed into an agglomeration of citadels for the wealthy, enclaves for middle classes, vulnerable quarters for working classes, and ghettos for the poor and marginalized groups.”

Their declaration calls for a city without discrimination, the refusal to accept relocations and displacements, land rights for the poor, social rights over property rights, decent living conditions for all, affordable and quality public transportation and sanitation, the refusal to accept monopoly in the mass media, food sovereignty, alternative energy, non-market methods for fulfilling social needs, and structures for participatory decision making. It also invites professionals and academics to join in:

“We believe academics and professionals should contribute to the construction of collective action processes and should help workers and urban residents in general to take their destiny and the destiny of their cities into their own hands.”

With this in mind, the KRVIA Design Cell Academy (KDCA) is organising a Summer School that will explore the concept, practice and possibilities of the Right to The City framework. Rooted in the history and socio-spatial development of the city of Mumbai, it will seek to understand how social movements have always claimed their right to the city, to resist, to create new imaginations and practical alternatives for urban life, based on solidarity and mutual aid. The program will also explore the origins and nature of urban struggles around the world, and explore the scope and scale of the movement towards the building of democratic, egalitarian and environmentally just cities. The program will include city walks, seminars, presentations and conversations - and is open students, researchers, activists, and anyone who is interested in these, and related questions.

Fees: 11,000 including course material and refreshments
Number of Students 25
See also

Shweta Wagh is an architect with a masters in Urban Conservation. She works as an Assistant Professor at the KRVIA and is involved with the Research and Design Cell at the school. As an urban researcher and activist herinterests include research and advocacy in areas related to urban and environmental policy, urban ecology and livelihoods, affordable housing, urban commons and urban social movements. Some of her previous work involves framing conservation policy and guidelines, participatory area planning, and the upgradation/self development ofurban villages and informal settlements. As a member of the People's Campaign over Mumbai's development plan, she works in collaboration with various organizations and communities in the city on issues related to planning and urban development.

Malav Kanuga is a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York and visiting assistant professor at Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies. He works on issues of value, commons, grass roots movements, and urban development.

Hussain Z Indorewala teaches social and political theory, research methods and humanities at the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture (KRVIA) in Mumbai. He writes regularly on urban politics, physical planning, and sustainability and works with community groups in the city on issues of urban development, affordable housing, waste management and food planning. Actively involved in the Research and Design Cell at the KRVIA, he also works with various community groups on issues of urban development in the city. He is a member of the Campaign over Mumbai's Development Plan, and is has collaborated on a People's up-gradation plan for Malvani, a high density low income settlement in the Western suburbs of Mumbai.

Simpreet Singh steers the Right to the City Campaign-India, at its Secretariat which makes him travel all over the country. An engineer by training, he has been a full time activist with Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, a social movement of slum dwellers which has been at the forefront of the struggle against the neo-liberal transformation of the city. He played a major role in exposing many land scams in Mumbai city that exposed and challenged the nexus between global capital, real estate developers and state agencies. Simpreet is also a research scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) where he is working on developing people’s history of Mumbai and Ranchi city by collecting oral history narratives.

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