Discipline in Sri Lanka, punish in Pakistan: neoliberalism, governance, and housing compared

by Asha Abeyasekera, Ammara Maqsood, Iromi Perera, Fizzah Sajjad and Jonathan Spencer

06 Aug 2019
Number of pages
30 (pp. 215-244)

Abstract: In discussions of urban infrastructure and land, neoliberalism is often presented as a hegemonic economic model with, seemingly, identical outcomes across a range of historical and political circumstances. For instance, in large cities of the Global South, a combination of speculative capitalism, and increased privatisation in the provision of public services, has been blamed for structural dispossession and the pushing out of working-class and vulnerable groups from urban centres. However, little has been said about how these processes interact with more contextual specificities—longer histories of state provision, existing inequalities, local political dynamics and legislative structures. Through comparative work on urban infrastructure projects in Lahore and Colombo, this article tells a story in which historical differences in state policy on housing and governance have impacted the ways in which dispossession is meted out, experienced and contested. Contributing to calls for studies of ‘actually existing neoliberalism’ (Wacquant 2012), we illustrate the importance of closely examining the relationship between neoliberal policies and dispossession on the ground through a historical perspective.

Keywords: Housing, poverty, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, dispossession, neoliberalism, state.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 7, supplementary issue 2 (Cities and Infrastructure in the Global South).

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