Bombay Brokers

Bombay Brokers

Book Pages: 472 Illustrations: 33 illustrations Published: May 2021

Anthropology, Asian Studies > South Asia, Sociology > Urban Studies

A political party worker who produces crowds for electoral rallies. A “prison specialist” who serves other people’s prison sentences in exchange for a large fee. An engineer who is able to secure otherwise impossible building permits. These and other dealmakers—whose expertise and labor is often considered morally suspect—can be indispensable for navigating everyday life in Bombay, one of the world’s most complex, dynamic, and populous cities. Bombay Brokers collects profiles of thirty-six such “brokers.” Written by anthropologists, artists, city planners, and activists, these character sketches bring into relief the paradox that these brokers’ knowledge and labor are ethically fraught yet essential for Bombay’s functioning. Their centrality reveals the global-scale paradoxes and gaps that these brokers mediate and bridge. In this way, Bombay Brokers prompts a reconsideration of what counts as legitimate and valuable knowledge and labor, while offering insight into changing structures of power in Bombay and around the globe.

Contributors. Anjali Arondekar, Sarthak Bagchi, Tobias Baitsch, Sangeeta Banerji, Srimati Basu, Tarini Bedi, Amita Bhide, Lisa Björkman, Uday Chandra, Simon Chauchard, Ka-Kin Cheuk, Michael Collins, Daisy Deomampo, Maura Finkelstein, Ajay Gandhi, Rupali Gupte, Kathryn C. Hardy, Lalitha Kamath, Prasad Khanolkar, Bhushan Korgaonkar, Ratoola Kundu, Ken Kuroda, Annelies Kusters, Lisa Mitchell, Shailaja Paik, Gautam Pemmaraju, Lubaina Rangwala, Llerena Guiu Searle, Atreyee Sen, Prasad Shetty, Rohan Shivkumar, Edward Simpson, David Strohl, Rachel Sturman, R. Swaminathan, Aneri Taskar, Yaffa Truelove, Sahana Udupa, Lalit Vachani, Leilah Vevaina


“Lisa Björkman's collection Bombay Brokers offers a brilliantly multivocal account of the many worlds of practical negotiation and embodied expertise that animate urban life in one of India's most dynamic, polarized cities. Just as importantly, it is a remarkable work of collaborative ethnography that forges a distinctive methodological strategy through which to illuminate the crises and contradictions of contemporary urbanism in Bombay and beyond.” — Neil Brenner, Urban Theory Lab, University of Chicago

“This remarkable edited collection is a commendable contribution to the study of the links between mediation and intermediation, thus linking a venerable tradition of political anthropology with vivid portraits of the agency of brokers. It brings Bombay to life in ways that will surely inform the comparative study of fixers in other large cities caught in the flux of globalization.” — Arjun Appadurai, Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University


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Lisa Björkman is Assistant Professor of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of Louisville, Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, and author of Pipe Politics, Contested Waters: Embedded Infrastructures of Millennial Mumbai, also published by Duke University Press, and Waiting Town: Life in Transit and Mumbai's Other World-Class Histories.

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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1149-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1053-1