Mumbai – Commoning Public Spaces

Source: Our Life Unfolded,


Country India
City Mumbai
Name Commoning public spaces
Date 2015
Description Parthasarathy argues that Bombay / Mumbai represent an interesting case for the study of cities as a commons. Its paper focuses on the ways in which public spaces are commoned permanently and temporarily by different classes of people and new common places come to be created initially to cater to specific ethnic groups. Analyzing the relationships between formal, informal, economic, political, and religious actors as a result of different commoning practices, the author concludes by defining Mumbai as symbolic public good. “In many ways for rural elites and poor, for the upper castes and the lower castes the city is not just a place which offers an alternate livelihood, and a source for income generation, the city constitutes a symbolic public good.” Different practices have developed each arising from the very religiously diverse, migrant, and economically unequal population. Religious festivals and the occupation of public spaces for weeks represent a peculiar example of commoning which also ends up excluding and claiming space for a specific group, other than providing an opportunity for political elites and capital investments. Informal workers and street markets are also another example of commoning. “ For the aspiring small scale and informal entrepreneurs, and those seeking to own income generating assets – taxis, light commercial vehicles, small manufacturing equipment, and small retail – Mumbai has a large and efficient fiduciary network consisting of credit cooperatives, and cooperative banks which offer easy finance. This is the symbolic financial commons that the urban migrant poor and lower classes depend on.”

But the author draws an interesting conclusion: commoning as a way of bringing the multitudes together, as diverse as they may be.

“As with the ritual, cultural, and political commons, and the temporal commons that are the site for informal sector workers, symbolic public goods as commons bring together rich and poor, the powerful and those seeking empowerment, into shared strategies of commoning the city. “

Urban Co-Governance Moderate
Enabling State Weak
Pooling Moderate
Experimentalism Strong
Tech Justice Weak
Project Website
References, sources, contact person(s) D.Parthasarathy, “Aamchi Mumbai: Capital, Commons, and the City(zen)”, 2015, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay

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Posted on

June 8, 2018