After four years of work and many unexpected twists and turns, I finally defended my dissertation on Muslim politics in North India last week and subsequently received the title of Dr. phil. (graded very good / magna cum laude). The dissertation consists of five refereed articles, a reprint, two published datasets and an overview essay that links them all together (the latter is published here):

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.

Pretty much a year ago, I blogged about residential segregation of Lucknow's Muslims. There were three prominent explanations for why Muslims tend not to live in newer parts of the city, and if so, then more segregated: a) they do not want to because they prefer old-city conviviality, b) they cannot afford to because they are poor, and c) they are not allowed to, i.e. discriminated against in the housing market. All three explanations have important implications for my overall interest in Muslim belonging. But which is the most likely?

As one comment back then pointed out, data on real estate would be key to sort this out. I now have that data, and will attempt to solve the riddle in two posts. Today, I will give an overview of Lucknow's real estate market, while taking a closer look at the local state's involvement next week. This is all quite experimental still, and I would be very interested in your comments (if you are interested in a more extensive analysis, please drop me a line)!

The basis for my analysis is data from Lucknow's Property Index Register, which records all registered property sales since 2006, more than 250.000 transactions. As a first step, have a look at the following map (larger version), which shows the average sales prices per square meter over this period:

Last week, I finally got around to digitize the old map of Lucknow's Shia and Sunni population, which an enthusiastic Census officer produced in 1961, and which I managed to acquire in full copy three days before I left India last December.1 Geocoding the scan and counting all the little dots (which represent 200 Shia or Sunni households) resulted in the following map of Shia population:

  • 1. Census of India. (1961). Moharram in two cities (Lucknow and Delhi). In: Census monograph series, part VII-B: Fairs and festivals.

That's it. I am leaving Lucknow. Well, not quite yet: I still have to get rid of a flat, and say good bye to all the good friends I met during the last 15 months. But in terms of fieldwork, and thus in terms of this blog, its time to wrap it up. Last week's map was a befitting ending, hard to trump. Anyway: it is too early to tell what I got from you, my dear field site. I will miss your Tehzeeb, hopefully soon forget some other facets of your culture - but certainly remember you for much more than powercuts. Over the next year and a half, I will try to write a book about you - till then, both of us have to be patient.

And while I transit back to Europe, this blog will see a series of posts on book publishing - since I did not only complete fieldwork, but also my first monograph, which is in press with Sage, New Delhi - and will reach Ram Advani's famed bookstore by end of the year, Inshallah...