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".

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:

After newspapers, online open access is unsurprisingly the second quickest medium in which reviews of my book appear. And since I am these days so embroiled in writing the first big draft of my research on Lucknow, this blog is poised to turn into a tool of quick and dirty self-promotion (though a post on Lucknow's real estate boom is in the pipeline, keep watching!). This is Jack David Eller, writing for the Anthropology Review Database:

We can only hope that the message of Muslim diversity and ambivalence reaches the ears of the public and of policy-makers and that more anthropologists will be inspired to explore and describe how religion actually moves, or does not move, particular Islamic - and other religions' - individual members, groups, and parties. (read the whole review online)

And here comes Kalathmika Natarajan, writing for the impressive new LSE Review of books (do subscribe to their RSS feeds or follow @LSEReviewBooks if you haven't already), with a more critical note: