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Urban villages by the airport.

Everyday entanglements of social-economic extremes and negotiations in anticipation of development-induced displacement in Mumbai and Abidjan.


The ethnographic research project analyses intersections of urban renewal, airport expansion and contested affordable housing near international airports.

International airports are nodal points and important economic spaces for their cities in many ways. They play a crucial role in national economic development strategies and are thus among the top priorities of urban planners, city developers and national governments. Airports also act as symbols of modernity that many governments in countries of the Global South would like to exhibit to the outside world. Most international airports are spaces representing infrastructural standards of the Global North, as well as middle/ upper class habitus – no matter in which country they are actually situated. International airports in the Global South are very promising field sites for research on urban social-economic inequalities due to their dense spatial entanglements and high economic interdependencies of different income groups. The airport acts as a contact zone for people from socio-economic extremes where they meet, work and interact under strict regulations. The international airport in Mumbai (India) and Abidjan (Côte d ́Ivoire) are surrounded by densely populated urban villages (also referred to as slums), which were illegally established by poor populations on airport land and are highly contested for many decades. Mumbai and Abidjan display a dynamic pattern of slum formation, as well as a long historical record of displacement policies. Airport expansion trigger these urban policies and are about to change long-standing realities on the ground. We will also conduct research on airport formation in New Mumbai.

Central research questions: (1) How have shared spaces, social entanglements and economic interdependencies between urban villages and international airports evolved over time? (2) In the context of airport expansion, which everyday practices of entanglement and deal-making strategies are employed by different interest groups to negotiate and enforce the persistence or change of land use around airports?



Total six-month ethnographic field research in Mumbai and Abidjan & initiation of a book edition with international case studies.


Main funding partner

Fritz Thyssen Stiftung für Wissenschaftsförderung,


Media about the project


Further information

11/2020 Official start of the project


Research blog




Related teaching

WS 2020/21: M7 „Cities of the global South : Urban Politics and marginality“

WS 2020/21: M3 „Politische Ökologie der Städte des Globalen Südens“

Potential themes for BSc./ MSc. thesis

• Spatial analysis of LUC on airport land in Mumbai.

• Spatial analysis of LUC on airport land in Abidjan.

• International case studies related to the overall project objective.



11/2020 - 10/2022


Contact Persons

Dr. Irit Eguavoen (project leader)dmm profile.PNG

Office: Geozentrum - Meckenheimer Allee 176



E-Mail: [Email protection active, please enable JavaScript.]


Dr. Sneha SharmaProfil_Gebreyes.JPG

Office: Geozentrum - Meckenheimer Allee 176

Raum / Room 1.023

E-Mail: [Email protection active, please enable JavaScript.]





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