Fluid Lives

Malaria, dengue and health in contemporary South Asia

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Liquid archive: memory, materiality, emphemerality

Last summer I went to an exhibition called the Museum of Water by the artist Amy Sharrocks, held briefly in Toynbee Hall, in Spitalfields. The premise was simple, visitors to the museum were invited to bring a sample of water that was meaningful to them, inscribing the story behind it on a small card. The short, some funny, some poignant, accounts inscribed on the small cards displayed with them were; a powerful kind of auto-cataloguing. Amy Sharrocks had asked contributors:

How do you enjoy water?
Do you swim in pools?
Do you splash in puddles?
Do you drink from a tap?

Choose what water is most precious to you. Find a bottle to put it in. Tell us why you chose this water. We will keep it for you.
Help us build a collection of water for future generations to enjoy.
What water will you keep?

It is a brilliantly simple, elegant but powerful idea to ask people to create and contribute their own donations got people to think about the meaning and biography of water in all is meaningful, social, kinship-mediating, life-changing, political, joyous, tragic, multiple, slippery, fluid and leaky form. That warm sunny evening stayed with me as I cycled home (alongside a canal), but the rest of the year since then. So when I read that it was going to be held again (with a great set of accompanying events), this time in the grander and more watery setting of Somerset House on the banks of the River Thames, I felt compelled to visit it again.

Corporation Pop

At Toynbee Hall, the ‘Corporation Pop’ had made me smile with its thrifty humour, but also because it was a smart demonstration of the curious properties of water. A simple glass of tap water, so described by someone’s grandparents, it the only exhibit not in a bottle, being ever replaceable, interchangeable and yet meaningfully the same, ‘next time’ out of the tap. Now I found a bottle of ‘Clapton Damp’, and the attendant frustrations and health concerns that come with living in a damp flat. (Since my last flat caused mold to grow on both my wooden kitchen utensils and leather shoes, I could only commiserate). Several other people had contributed snowballs (now melted), the holy water of a range of religions (Zam Zam collected on Hajj or Ummrah, water from several sites along the Ganges, from Catholic shrines), some pre-packaged, others collected by pilgrims themselves. Some was pond water, some was gym water (in a Fire and Rescue Services bottle). Several bottles were from swimming baths, one apparently donated by a woman who had campaigned successfully to save Brockwell Lido (somewhere I’m sorry not to live closer to anymore). Several were very moving, more than one bottle of tears, but particularly the water collected by a woman the day her partner died some years ago, which had gradually evaporated with time, along, she hoped, with her grief.

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In fact, the gradual evaporation of the donations was another interesting dimension of the Museum. The ephemerality of water (another donation had consisted of ‘mist’ collected, several of ice), visibly present, but all the time slowly disappearing by entropy out of its containers. A little like the fine detail of memory there, but fragile, liking all kinds of powerfully meaningful and emotional aspects of life together, just as water at once escapes containers imperceptibly, as much as it carves valleys in the form of streams. A powerful kind of magic trick.

I was happy to meet Amy again, who was kind enough to point out my donation of Delhi water on its shelf, and add that my short account of where I guessed it had come from on its journey into my water bottle had got her thinking about water distribution. I had no idea until she told me that London has a circular water main delivering water around the city, somewhere between the ring main of a house distributing electricity and the M25. She was also collecting interviews with donors (both the collection and soon the sound archive will be on the Museum of Water’s website), and I was excited to hear that she will soon be taking it not only to several UK festival, but overseas to Copenhagen and if I remember rightly to New York. I have to confess that I still think the Museum of Water would be an amazing thing to take to Delhi, perhaps in collaboration with a collective like Khoj  at the back of Malvyia Nagar, in the streets of Khirki Ex, and one of the malls at Saket. So many similar, powerful questions and emotions linked to water and everyday life, place, social relations, notions of dirt, difference, mixing, of religion, neighbours, scarcity, and status abound in South Asia, arguably more so than in the UK, and no less powerful in the face of climate change.

For myself, I find the Museum of Water project compelling for two reasons. Firstly that it seems to reach people with a remarkable strength of emotion and meaning, in a way that social and historical research often struggles to – in a way that is complex, nuanced and powerfully intelligible in an almost primordial way. There is much to learn from this project in that sense. Secondly, because the everyday life of water remains an animating theme in project, even as I’m principally interested in dengue, as it is the linking medium between mosquitoes and humans. Water is hard to study for its ubiquity, it gets away from one in its material properties that allow it to both flow out of ones control and lift into the air as vapour, but it is indispensible and consequently links us all together, to each other and the wider world in a way that is also inescapable.


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Delhi old and new

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to explore Delhi from a very different angle to the one which I am used to. Despite my current home department, I’m a social anthropologist by training and practice, and if asked, I’m inclined to explain my preferred mode of working, as (jokingly) ‘liking my humans alive and chatty’.  I hope this serves to differentiate me from physical anthropologists, forensic anthropologists, and archaeologists (‘ah, you’re an anthropologist, you must study apes/bones/dead people (-nope!)/pot shards’), although in India, I’m more likely to describe myself as a sociologist, as my work more closely fits with what sociologists in India do.

Consequently to dip my toe into the archives was an interesting, sometimes exhilarating, if also rather frustrating experience. So, in that respect, not so far from ethnographic research! Most frustratingly in the archives, which I was attempting to scope in all too little time, more than 50% of the files which I attempted to look at were simply not available. Not so much I think that they had been officially repressed, but given the set up (which I may explain some other time), they seem simply to have been lost. I suspect they have been lost within the archive themselves, filed out of place, or most likely never made it into the crumbling/half-under-renovation building itself.

Mostly I ploughed through the indexes of the Chief Commissioner’s office files which ran from 1913 to 1957, containing a varyingly comprehensive list of material produced and filed by a number of different departments. Since this was all new to me, I started, initially with the earliest index (1913), before realising that given my post-Independence interests and very limited amount of time, it made most sense for me to start at the other end. Consequently, I worked my way back from 1957 to 1952. While all were bound in crumbling low quality cardboard covers, the indexes quality and contents of the indexes themselves varied strikingly. The volumes of 1913 were all typeset, consequently it was very easy to skim an eye down each page making them fast to skim read. They were also mind bogglingly comprehensive, hinting at any number of little stories contained in their files, yet it was harder to see large trends within the three years I covered (1913, 1914, 1915). Switching to the 1950s and working backwards through the volumes to give myself an overview of their contents, and as well as to track down those files that interested me, these were very different. These indexes were sometimes thinner (1957 especially) and all hand written in a varieties of spidery scrawl, making efficient reading much slower and the process of wading through 350-400 odd pages per volume, a great deal more tedious.

Chief Commissioner of Delhi Municipal Corporation files indexes - the neat versions!

Chief Commissioner of Delhi Municipal Corporation files indexes – the neat versions!

Perhaps most off-putting aspect, given my hopes of actually pulling files from the archives through this process, was that most were listed with the apocalyptic word beside them ‘Destroyed’. Is there anything in this archive?!’ I wondered rather despondently as a received all five of the request slips I had submitted two hours earlier back, marked N/F (file not found). The archivist/librarian assured me that apparently some of these ‘destroyed’ files did exist, as ‘destroyed’ did not necessarily mean destroyed (having visions of bundles of papers removed by the truckload, resurfacing as paper bags in markets and bazaars). Destroyed simply meant chucked out in the vague direction of the Archive. That said, the majority of files I called with the note ‘Destroyed’ beside their listing, were indeed apparently impossible for the archivist/librarian to resurrect from the archives’ many rows of dusty shelves.

Practicalities aside, the indexes revealed interesting things about concerns, continuities and contrasts between my brief dip into 1913-15, 40 years later in 1950s post-Independence Delhi and the present day. So many of the issues seemed contemporary in 2013, as they were in 1913, a hundred years later. The 1913 archives referred to concerns about the state of the environment, particularly the Ridge areas of Delhi and its role as a green area in the city. While I didn’t pull particular file to look at, it would have been interesting to know who or what is seen as the source of the deforestation. Today the blame is usually pinned on a combination of ‘encroachment’ (with the inference of illegality appended to migration), ill-advised (and hence with a whiff of corruption) urban development in the form of shopping malls, or unauthorised quarrying. I was looking for references to water and health, plans were afoot to ‘afforest’ (a term I thought was an entirely contemporary neologism of Delhi newspapers) the South Ridge. Elsewhere I was struck by the apparent widespread availability of electricity, indicated by accounts of electrification in the city and requests for fans and electrical lighting. In 1915, Civil Lines Hospital receives an X-ray machine. Contrast this with the house I grew up in the South East of England which was not electrified until the late 1950s.

From an urban planning perspective, I was intrigued that Shahdara and Najafgargh village were much discussed as areas for development and the increase of housing and urban facilities in 1913. Present day perspectives on Delhi tend to see urban villages as a thoroughly post Independence phenomenon, a product of ‘unauthorised development’ of the 70s and 80s – but this perspective is apparently not new either. Indeed, both the present day Wikipedia pages for Shahdara and Najafgargh hint at the continuingly contested nature of what urban development means and where these two sites ‘rank’ in popular perceptions of place in the city.

In 1957, ten years after Independence and the huge population displacements as Delhi Muslims fled to Pakistan and displaced Hindus arrived to Delhi, the sheer level of population upheaval is still being worked through in the city. The Delhi Master Plan is only published in draft form in 1958, and the indexes of files for the Chief Commissioner’s office are full of page after page, after page, of references to plot allotments to post-Partition refugees, squabbles over misappropriated land, and all manner of petitions and goings on of the R&R department (precise name, no one seemed able to tell me, Refugees and Rehabilitation?). One file I did manage to successfully pull from the archive contained the letters of a traders association in NW Delhi battling to get the drain behind them cleaned, and the ‘unsanitary’ nature of the area improved, competing against their clearly better off, more legally settled neighbours. In this respect, the indexes of the colonial era had something of the uncannily clean and tidy about them, rather like reading today’s Times of India, where complexity and struggle of everyday urban life can seem to be have been glossed over and the sharp edges of urban life sanded down. By contrast, the post-colonial file listings contained references to allegations and occasional dismissals for corruption and graft, endless back and forths over infrastructure, far fewer requests for proper summer uniforms for staff, and far more for simple basic services. This felt much more like the Delhi encountered doing fieldwork, where everyday life can be a struggle and access to services requires the careful corralling of contacts, acquaintances and letterheads. In this post-Independence era, the untidiness and brevity of the indexes and records seemed to reflect not just the present day political possibilities of the archives (that can no longer be dismissed as just colonial history), but also where simply less details are kept within the files. Even so, the wheeling and dealing and chai pani [literally ‘tea water’, meaning ‘tea money’ aka a small bribe to facilitate the passage of ‘work’] is still sometimes hinted at in the interactions that went on within and in between those records, that are no longer visible to the historians eye. Not least, who drank tea with whom and the slight felt when the Chief Commissioner refused to drink tea with the less significant traders association.

Some of the things in the early colonial era indexes record things that are just so mundane as to wonder why they appear (a dustbin for Faiz Bazaar Police Station). Or they are just bizarre; how on earth is dynamite useful in the pursuit of tree planting?! Surprises still remain too. Who knew there were so many cocaine busts in colonial Delhi? Perhaps having heard James Mill‘s talk on drugs, intoxication and empires last term I shouldn’t have been surprised, but as a child of the 80s, cocaine is synonymous with the images of excess of London financial sector’s Big Bang; power shoulders on jackets, ‘Loadsamoney’, champagne and white powder. So finding something as manufactured and purified as cocaine as the subject of a colonial era drugs bust was a surprise. Other index entries note the conversion of the ‘Hindu Biscuit Company’ to the ‘Delhi Biscuit Company’; why is this recorded? Or what on earth happened to Mrs O’Brien’s horse at the Woodlands Hotel to require compensation for its destruction? Tragedy seeps out of other entries: the removal of Mrs Hinds to the pauper lunatic asylum in Agra. While on a lighter note, the Chaplin of Delhi seemed to have engineered himself near permanent leave from his job (payments and allowances, apparently intact), while my inner Simpsons fan couldn’t help but snigger at the grant of a passport to a Mr MF Shmuck… Bart, I feel, would approve.

Notes from the Annual Index to the Proceedings of the Chief Commissioner of Delhi


  • April 1913 – Extension of the police to the Notified Area of Najafgargh
  • May 1913 – Vaccination. Extension of vaccination to the Najafgargh Notified area (May, September). Home dept. Part B. Progs 207-10, 1-2. File #125
  • An ‘Afforestation Scheme’ is going on in the South Ridge in Aug 1913. Noted in Revenue and Agriculture files.
  • Assistant Civil Surgeon, Delhi. Installation of a telephone in the house of – March 1913. Com & Ind.
  • Bills – To suppress the importation of foreign women for prostitution. May 1913. Home dept.
  • Bonus – Application of Mr Edulji for a — . March 1913.
  • Books. Archaeological. Supply of – to Mr Baker. Architect. April. Education dept.
  • Other books supplied at the same time include: Presentation copies of ‘The Tragedy of the Emperor Shah Jehan, and the ‘Delhi Capital Directory’.
  • Buildings. Proposed erection of – On municipal land on Rajpore Road for hotel purposes. 1913.
  • Chenab Trees. Planting of – in the Viceregal Lodge Gardens.
  • Requests for installation of electric lights and phones in camps – surprisingly frequent
  • Chief Engineer, Delhi. Purchase of 12 Remington Typewriters for – . Com & Ind. Dept.
  • Cocaine. Balance of confiscated – with the Delhi Excise Department at the end of the year 1912-13. Other records pertaining to the limits of possession of, reports and rules regarding the illicit traffic of, and quantity received and issued in Delhi Province.
  • Dust bin. Local purchase for the Faiz Bazar Police Station
  • Dynamite. Proposed use of – . In connection with tree planting in Delhi
  • Meanwhile the Chaplin of Delhi seems to be on permanent leave, with grants made to appoint a deputy and house him in a tent…
  • Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association. Proposed erection of a drinking foundation and cattle trough at Delhi by the –.
  • Schmuck. Mr RF. Delhi. Grant of a passport to –.
  • No less than 13 entries about typewriters…
  • Umbrellas. Decision that process servers in Delhi Should not be supplied with – at Government expense.
  • Webb. Police Sergeant. Deputation of –. To Shimla. Question of grant of hill allowance to –. Return of –. From Shimla.
  • X-ray installation in the Civil Hospital, Delhi.


  • Court. Wearing of Indian Shoes in –.
  • Dacoities. Information relating to –. Committed in Punjab and the United Provinces.
  • Delhi Conspiracy Case. Further grant for secret service purposes in connection with the –.
  • Emigration. Discouragement of Indian emigration to Cuba –.
  • Hinds, Mrs. Removal of –. a pauper lunatic, to the Agra Lunatic Asylum.
  • Hindu Biscuit Company Ltd. Delhi. Change of name to the Delhi Biscuit Company. Ltd.
  • Hindu Biscuit Company Ltd. Delhi. Offer of biscuits by –. To the St. John’s Ambulance Corps.
  • Native Estates. Exclusion of the educational statistics of –, from the educational report.
  • Reports and returns on Cancer cases.  Submission of –. Jun 1914. Home.
  • Workhouse. Proposals regarding the establishment of a –, in Delhi.


  • Excise. Definition of ‘country liquor’ and ‘foreign liquor’ for the purposes of the –.
  • O’Brien, Mrs. OF Woodlands Hotel, Delhi. Compensation to –, for the destruction of a horse. November 1915
  • Opium. Loss of a block of –, from a consignment. May 1915
  • The Hon’ble Mr Justice, Allahabad High Court. Complaint of –, regarding encroachment on his land in Delhi.

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Water: Small but tough (and really quite surprising) – BBC R4 ‘In Our Time’

Had you ever thought what a magical molecule water really is? It’s amazingly simple really, just two hydrogens and an an oxygen, yet really quite subtle in its actions as its slight charges (dipoles, if I remember enough A level physics) which means it hangs on to its friends and gives it a surprisingly high boiling point.

All this and more on a fascinating edition of ‘In Our Time‘ on last Thursday’s Radio 4.

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Mapping Life and Death in Victorian Soho

Friday 15th March was the 200th anniversary of physician John Snow‘s birth (1831-1858). Although better known in his day for his work on ether and chloroform as anaesthesia (including administering them to Queen Victoria during the birth of her last two children), he is best known today as one of the fathers of modern epidemiology, tracing and mapping a cholera outbreak in 1854 to a pump on Broad(wick) Street in Soho. So there has been a flurry of internet excitement in urban and epidemiological circles around the 200th anniversary of John Snow’s birth – The Guardian even describing him as a ‘data journalist‘ (although given his fight to get his work recognised as science I’m not sure he’d have found that title useful!). Two weeks later, I have finally got around to seeing the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine‘s exhibition ‘Cartographies of Life and Death: John Snow & Disease Mapping‘.

For the most part, the exhibition places the power of mapping and cartography as an innovation central to thinking about the recording of death and disease. 1854 was also the year that the Crimean War broke out, where Florence Nightingale was to assiduously collect and record of data on cleanliness and sanitation in hospitals using ‘coxcomb’ diagrams. The combination of detective work and powerful visual narratives in the shape of maps and mapping means the topic fits well with contemporary interests in data visualisation, the potential of health and medical records as datasets and in particular for ‘big data’ in drawing out correlations between types of ill health and other factors, recording disease incidence and modelling its progression.

Just as contemporary developments in computing power are allowing new manipulations of very large data sets, mid-19th century developments in printing and map making had allowed Snow to plot, record and then publish his work in map, rather than simply tabular form as ‘On the Mode of Communication of Cholera‘ the following year in 1855. In 2013 both printed and mobile (phone) maps now allow one to walk around the streets of Soho itself, and get a sense of the visual clarity that maps provide, but also as one crosses roads and dodges boisterous late Saturday afternoon pedestrians, to get a sense of the everyday melee that the data was distilled out of. The exhibition brought these kinds of data visualisations up to date with a screen showing Google Earth updated with postings to the Pro-MED  (Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases) email list.

It’s hard to disagree with Beth Skwarecki list on the PLOS Public Health Perspectives blog of the top three things she things she thinks we’re still learning from John Snow’s work:

  1. That data visualisations can make powerful arguments for change,
  2. that microbes have been under our noses all the time
  3. and that sanitation and clean water are still (no brackets needed!) really important.

But other striking things emerged from the exhibition and maps too. On the handbill version of the exhibition map, sites in contemporary Soho are marked with quotes from Snow’s ‘On the Mode of Communication of Cholera‘. We learn that residents of Soho themselves had their suspicions about different water sources:

“37 Broad Street. Mr Eley, the percussion-cap manufacturer of 37 Broad Street informed me that he had long noticed that the water became offensive, both to smell and taste, after it had been kept about two days. This as I noticed before, is a character of water contaminated with sewage. Another person had noticed for months that a film formed on the surface of the water when it had been kept a few hours.”


“Brewery on Broad Street. There is a brewery on Broad Street, near to the pump, an on perceiving that no brewer’s men were registered as having died of cholera, I called on Mr Hugguns, the proprietor […] the men were allowed a certain quantity of malt liquor, and Mr Hugguns believed they do not drink water at all; and he is quite certain that the workmen never obtained the water from the pump in the street. There is a deep well in the brewery, in addition to the New River Water.”

Similarly, there was a Workhouse on Poland Street, which with its large number of (by definition) poor residents living in close conditions might be expected to have had a large number of deaths, saw only 5 deaths out of 535 inmates. But the workhouse had its own pump on the premises, and received piped water from the Grand Junction Water work, not the Broad Street pump. The dept of the pump in both of these cases is significant, placing it below the level of a shallow bore pump that drew in water contaminated by cesspits and drains. Faecal contamination, even of piped water remains a significant problem in rapidly urbanising cities where functioning sewerage systems may be hard to come by or entangled with water distribution pipes owing to the order in which they are laid.

Nonetheless, the Broad Street pump water had its own attractions, particularly its taste and coolness at the end of a long hot summer.

“The pump-water was also sold in various little shops, with a teaspoonful of effervescing powder in it, under the name of sherbert; and it may have been distributed in other ways which I am unacquainted with.”

Although the shorthand that a map provides as a visualisation of data is powerful enough a technical and rhetorical form to eventually challenge and displace the miasma explanation for cholera (no surprise that Edward Tufte is a fan of Snow’s work) to that of germ theory, it is also clear that many of these insights would not have been available to Snow without spending consdierable time walking the streets and talking to people. It was not only proximity to the Broad Street pump that lead people to drink from it. The sensual dimensions of water, it’s taste, coolness and slight carbonation also shaped people’s preferences for one pump or another. In Steven Johnson’s book The Ghost Map, an entertaining account of Snow’s work and battle to get it recognised (and excellent TED talk), further details of the Eley family, whose percussion-cap business was based at 37 Broad Street (above) also appear.

“Even emigres from Golden Square retained their taste for the Broad Street well. Susannah Eley, whose husband had founded the percussion-cap factory on Broad Street, moved to Hampstead after being widowed. But her sons would regularly fill a jug with Broad Street water and deliver it to her by cart. The Eley brothers also maintained two large tubs of well water for their employees during the work day. With temperatures reaching the mid-eighties in the shade on those late-August days and no wind to freshen the air, the collective thirst for cool well water must have been intense.” (No page number)

While the addresses of those who appear on the parish burial records provide would have provided Snow with points that could have been plotted on a map, without his work walking the streets and talking to people, recognising the significance of the social and economic relations of those who lived in the streets around the Broad Street pump, cases would have been missed. Furthermore, vital counter examples such as the lack of deaths of those associated with the Brewery and relatively few at the Workhouse on Poland Street with their independent source of water would not have emerged. Yet Snow’s struggle to get his interpretation of the data recognised, against a miasmatic framing of disease and the handle of the contaminated Broad Street pump permanently removed, is also indicative of contemporary struggles with government bodies to provide adequate infrastructures.

In his recent book ‘Urbanising Cholera: The Social Determinants of Its Re-emergenceRajib Dasgupta argues for a return to a more holistic approach to epidemiology, understanding how biological, environmental and behavioural factors are located within wider structures, in contemporary rapidly growing cities, like Delhi. He argues that diseases like cholera need to be approached as a complex phenomenon at the interface between biomedical, environmental, social and political domains. Water infrastructures too are at this interface, winding their way through present day cities, linking neighbours in unexpected ways, and fractures and disjunctions, as well as distrust between others. All of these factors need carefully tracing and understanding how they come together as a complex assemblage of relations, or in the case of disease as medical anthropologist Merill Singer might better put it, a syndemic.

More on the John Snow Bicentennary: http://vimeo.com/channels/johnsnow

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Casting off – Fluid lives in a South Asian megacity

At some point in most summers, water-shortages and an unpredictable supply make the headlines in Delhi. Soaring temperatures and often a late monsoon fray already shortened tempers, aggravating relationships between North Indian federal states and boosting the profits of private water tanker operators, as the struggle to access water preoccupies residents across the city. As the level of the River Yamuna fell, water pressure across the distribution network may drop. At the same time, power outages frequently prevent the use of booster pumps to suck water from the pipes or from illicit boreholes in informal, ‘unauthorised’ neighbourhoods on the rapidly urbanising margins of the network. One summer recently, after several days of receiving little to no water at all protests in one such neighbourhood turned violent, as residents vented their frustration at their lack of formal recognition and incorporation into the state’s distribution network by stoning government buses. Yet the struggle for water in Delhi is far from exceptional and shapes the everyday lives of the city’s 17million residents. Waiting for water disrupts the patterns of daily life and requires local politicians to be petitioned for a greater, cleaner or timelier allocation of water. Meanwhile, buying in supplementary water supplies is a substantial drain on often insubstantial household incomes.

[Updated 2014] This blog began to provide an informal research notebook for my new research project which at that point was to explore how people in Delhi negotiate the slippery issue of water in their everyday lives. Can attention to the history and development of water infrastructure shed light on contemporary issues? How do different narratives and discourses about shape understandings of water, wellbeing and the city and illustrate the social and political relations within which water is embedded at different scales? In particular what can attention to water tell us about the pressing wider questions of health in a ‘global city’ under conditions of rapid urbanisation?

While this research has come to focus on dengue fever as a complex, multiscalar entry point to undersand the interrelationships between disease, health and the socio-enviornment of the city, many of my concerns discussed here persist. Understanding Delhi’s water network as an assemblage of different kinds of relations, be they social, political, historical, technical, structural etc (in a more Ong & Collier sense, than a D&G or specifically Latourian sense – you can interview humans after all), this project will explore some of these issues through a number of strategic spatial and temporal locations. Some of these explorations I plan to discuss here. This work builds on my earlier research exploring the spatial dimensions of the politics of development in Delhi through the lives of resettlement neighbourhood residents; people who survived the demolition of their houses by the state nearly 40 years ago, rebuilding their lives on what was once the periphery of the city. Here too questions of water, access to it, entitlement to it, played out against a wider backdrop of debates about the place of the urban poor in the city.

Posts may take the form of reflections on debates in the literature, contemporary concerns in development circles, observations on Delhi happenings, and other interesting things. Crucially all these thoughts and posts are provisional. As Teo Ballvé eloquently puts it: ‘This blog is my motley space for commentary, summary, research notes, study, and whatever else I might want to do.