Title Making the Modern Slum
Subtitle The Power of Capital in Colonial Bombay
Author Sheetal Chhabria
ISBN 9780295746272
List price GBP 23.99
Price outside India Available on Request
Original price
Binding Paperback
No of pages 256
Book size 153 x 229 mm
Publishing year 2019
Original publisher University of Washington press (Combined Academic Publishers)
Published in India by .
Exclusive distributors Viva Books Private Limited
Sales territory India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, .
Status New Arrival
About the book Send Enquiry


“This is a refreshingly original and challenging account of the exclusionary logic of colonial urbanization. The British not only controlled the production of space in Bombay; they also shaped an Orwellian discourse that disguised slum-making as housing reform. Highly recommended.”

Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums


“The relevance of Making the Modern Slum is not limited to urban studies of Bombay, or indeed of South Asian colonial cities. Chhabria’s ability to ask fundamental questions about the city and its archive makes a major contribution to our understanding of the modern city as a construct.”

Swati Chattopadhyay, author of Unlearning the City: Infrastructure in a New Optical Field


“An extensive and wide-ranging analysis of the dynamics of urban change—a work of insight and originality.”

Jim Masselos, honorary reader in history, University of Sydney


“Sheetal Chhabria’s bracing, meticulously researched monograph establishes, against received wisdom, that the slum is not peripheral to but constitutive of the city, the internal other against which the city proper is continually measured and refashioned. By carefully demonstrating how and where the forces of capitalism, the shifting policies of the state, and the resistances of various social strata come together and fall apart, Making the Modern Slum offers a masterful paradigm for new critical histories of the governance of poverty.”

Rupa Viswanath, University of Göttingen


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Bombay was beset by crises such as famine and plague. Yet, rather than halting the flow of capital, these crises served to secure it. In colonial Bombay, capitalists and governors, Indian and British alike, used moments of crisis to justify interventions that delimited the city as a distinct object and progressively excluded laborers and migrants from it. Town planners, financiers, and property developers joined forces to secure the city as a space for commerce and encoded shelter types as legitimate or illegitimate. By the early twentieth century, the slum emerged as a particularly useful category of stigmatization that would animate city-making projects in subsequent decades.

Sheetal Chhabria locates the origins of Bombay’s now infamous “slum problem” in the broader histories of colonialism and capitalism. She not only challenges assumptions about colonial urbanization and cities in the global south, but also provides a new analytical approach to urban history. Making the Modern Slum shows how the wellbeing of the city–rather than of its people–became an increasingly urgent goal of government, positioning agrarian distress, famished migrants, and the laboring poor as threats to be contained or excluded.



Maps of Bombay and Environs

Introduction: Genealogies of the Urban

Chapter 1. Land: Calculative Rationales

Chapter 2. Famine: Localizing Agrarian Crises

Chapter 3. Shelter: Rendering Housing Technical

Chapter 4. Disease: From Body to Milieu

Chapter 5.Capital: A Self-Governing City


Conclusion: Afterlives of City Making

Epilogue: Movements and Countermovements




About the Author:

Sheetal Chhabria is associate professor of history at Connecticut College.

Target Audience:

The book gives lessons in urban history from the slums of Bombay.


Special prices are applicable to the authorised sales territory only.
Prices are subject to change without prior notice.