This is a preprint of a review whose final and definite form has been published in The Book Review; see entry in my publication list. The book itself is here

Accumulation by Segregation: Muslim localities in Delhi. By Ghazala Jamil. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2017, pp. 244, Rs 750

Muslim life in urban India has attracted fresh attention since the publication of the Sachar Report a good decade ago. The subsequent debate has gone through three distinct stages. Initial scholarship, including the report itself, outlined and quantified the extent of Muslim disadvantage with a broad brush. It demonstrated violent exclusion over decades; the associated deprivation in health, employment, housing, and other material indicators of development; and the symbolic marginalization of Muslims in the emerging middle-class narrative of ‘Shining India’. Roughly five years later, Laurent Gayer and Christophe Jaffrelot published ‘Muslims in Indian cities’, a groundbreaking volume that added a decidedly spatial dimension to the debate and at the same time unpacked the generic post-Sachar picture into multiple distinct trajectories of marginalization. Not every segregated Muslim space in urban India is a ‘ghetto’, not every demographic concentration is the outcome of communal violence, and the story of former princely seats of power like Lucknow or Bhopal can be quite different from that of declining working class cities like Ahmedabad or Bombay or so the argument went. Subsequent literature continued to open up a panorama of diversity among Muslim Indians that has long been overlooked. Younger authors like Raheel Dhattiwala, Sanderien Verstappen or myself took the opportunity to analyze Muslim residential clustering from alternative vantage points, without necessary assuming that the Sachar Report’s bleak outlook applies equally everywhere, and without assuming that all and everything can be explained by communal violence.

With ‘accumulation by segregation’, Ghazala Jamil sets the next milestone. Her book builds upon the first two stages in the debate and then transcends them. Jamil looks at five different Muslim localities within Delhi Shahjahanabad, Seelampur, Jamia Nagar, Nizamuddin and Taj Enclave but her book, unlike the work of Gayer and Jaffrelot, is not a typology. Instead, she moves the analysis one step further by embedding all five localities in wider debates on urban planning and capitalist transformation. Her book has three broad sections of two main chapters each. The first section very much recounts the previous two stages of the debate outlined above: the story of exclusion that came out of the Sachar report, and the story of diversity that followed the publication of ‘Muslims in Indian cities’. In these chapters, Jamil already consciously avoids to simply follow either take, though, emphasizing nuance but resisting the temptation to simply typologize. She also sets out her theoretical framework, inspired by Critical Theory of the Frankfurt variety. The second section develops her core argument, demonstrating how all types of segregation from the depressed ‘slum’ through to the privileged ‘enclave’ feed on the same wider processes of capitalist globalization, material in essence but mediated and made powerful through discourse. Reconfigured labor markets a key driver of segregation in ‘slums’ are not the same as real estate markets of essence in ‘enclaves’. The lived realities in these different spaces is also clearly different, as is the ability of residents to make choices, to be secure, to prosper and progress something that becomes very obvious in the last section of her book, as well as the hopeful (against all odds) conclusion. But what sets Jamil’s analysis apart, and what makes it such an important contribution to the literature on Muslim segregation in India, is that she demonstrates how the internal differentiation that we increasingly recognize is itself a product of, and contributes to, wider capitalist processes. This is not simply a story of difference and nuance it is a story of difference and nuance embedded in a wider critical and radical analysis of the political economy of ‘Shining India’. Rarely can one find an academic book whose title so aptly captures its argument: ‘accumulation by segregation’ indeed.

In the end, Ghazala Jamil thus manages to highlight both the internal differentiation among Muslims in Delhi, including their uneven ability to make choices about where and how to live and the fact that even the choices of those with more choice are embedded in wider structures of discrimination, as is of course the whole liberal language of ‘choice’. Importantly, highlighting people’s choices as well as the political and economic constraints within which they make them is not a question of ‘balance’ for her. She does not present one example of upper-class self-segregation for every example of violent relegation. Such balancing acts are all too common in writings about Muslim Indians but rarely generate nuanced insight, leaving us instead with an unclear muddle, academically as well as politically. Rather, ‘Accumulation by Segregation’ forcefully argues both sides of the coin, exposing wider structures of oppression while equally forcefully analyzing the distribution of privilege within. It presents us with a dialectic, not with balance. Ghazala Jamil learned this lesson from Critical Theory and the Frankfurt school. We can learn it from her.