The following book review first appeared in ASIEN / The German Journal on Contemporary Asia 131 (see entry in my publication list) and is reprinted here with permission. The book itself is here.

K. Hackenbroch: The Spatiality of Livelihoods. Negotiations of Access to Public Space in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2013, 396 S., EUR 56,00

Through a mixed-method study of spatial claim-making in two low-income neighbourhoods in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Kirsten Hackenbroch unveils the thoroughly political nature of everyday life. The key contribution of her ethnography is to highlight "informality from above", that is the deep implication of the state in what many geographers and urban planners continue to discuss as a depoliticized, "informal" process of urban growth. This insight gains considerable weight from painstaking and thorough long-term fieldwork; "The spatiality of livelihoods" thus also stands as an example of what can be gained from this increasingly unpopular endeavour.

India's general elections are coming up, and many data folks are looking forward to analyze and map results spatially (assuming, as I also argued last time, that all politics are local). Until very recently, only few could do this, however, because the basic prerequisite - GIS shapefiles of India's post-delimitation constituencies and polling station localities - were only available commercially (and could easily cost several thousand US dollars). Today, I wish to present a set of draft shapefiles comprising current polling booth localities, assembly constituencies and parliamentary constituencies under an open license, shared in the hope that they enable more visualizations and better spatial analyses of the ongoing elections.

Unlike the only other set of openly licensed shapefiles I am aware of - the handcrafted parliamentary constituency shapefiles recently published by DataMeet after their Bangalore hackathon (which does not yet contain assembly constituencies or polling station localities) - I chose an automated, algorithm-driven approach, working off draft polling station locality data published online by the Election Commission. I processed this data in multiple steps to derive assembly and later parliamentary constituency shapefiles:

Last week at the AAS in Philly, I had an interesting discussion of votebank politics in India and the importance of spatial variation. My contention was that most politics are local, and that electoral dynamics such as Muslim votebanks (i.e. Muslims voting for certain parties) and the extent of ethnic coordination (i.e. Muslims voting for Muslim candidates) depend on largely local factors. Some people disagreed, many agreed - but it remained a gut feeling. Until, on the flight back, I got an idea how to prove my point. This brief post thus explains at which level votebanks form and operate in India (well, in one instance at least)...

I am back in Lucknow since a week or so, and this time concentrate on economic questions - both those relating to real estate (see here and here) and to the scandal of poverty. Both issues are frequently linked, of course, since many people claim that Muslims could not find housing in new Lucknow because they are by and large poor (see my earlier discussion of residential segregation). As a quantifiable basis to discuss this proposition, I had analysed data from the Public Distribution System (PDS) before my departure. The key finding: Muslims in Lucknow are poor - but not poorer than their non-Muslim counterparts.

In last week's post, I began to introduce Lucknow's real estate market in an attempt to unearth the story behind the city's residential segregation along religious lines. I have shown where Muslims achieve higher and where lower prices than non-Muslims for comparable property (importantly, as one commentator pointed out by email, adopting a seller's perspective -- for sellers, higher prices are good, while for buyers, lower ones would be. I am currently wrapping my head around how this impacts my findings). Today, I want to volunteer one explanation for why this price difference (still firmly from a sellers perspective) might be as it is: it has to do with social networks and proximity - and with the uneven opportunities in colluding with the "actually existing state".