Caste, racialization, and the making of environmental unfreedoms in urban India

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Caste is as an under-recognized marker of environmental inequalities in urban India, what this article names as “environmental unfreedoms” for their fundamentally humanity- and dignity-robbing traits. It argues that a theoretical framework that is attentive to the racialization of labour and property under colonial and capitalist urban relations can reveal the making of environmental unfreedoms. Drawing on archival and ethnographic research in Bangalore/Bengaluru in southern India, the article shows, in particular, how the criminalizing language of “encroachment”, rooted in colonial urban planning lexicon and used to justify the spatial disciplining, containment, and eviction of labouring Dalits today, has dire consequences for the making of environmental unfreedoms. In turn, ecological narratives have also provided legal grounds for caste-based slum evictions. The article concludes that a framework that weaves together analyses of caste, racialization, and environmental unfreedoms in the urban context can identify opportunities towards transnational solidarities across anticaste and antiracist struggles.




Ranganathan, M. (2022). Caste, racialization, and the making of environmental unfreedoms in urban India. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 45(2), 257–277.

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