Engineering Formality: Flyover and Skywalk Construction in Mumbai


This article investigates the engineering of elevated transport infrastructure in contemporary Mumbai. It argues that the conception, construction and implementation of flyovers and skywalks in Mumbai over the past 20 years has been part of elite efforts seeking to instil a more free-flowing, predictable and regulated city. The techniques, routines, standards and visualizations comprising these engineering schemes have promised ways of reshaping the socio-material configurations and everyday landscapes of Mumbai into a more knowable, functional and integrated realm. The article suggests that this can be understood analytically as a means of trying to establish and maintain ‘formal’ ideals, citizens and spaces in Mumbai against wider urban contexts perceived as increasingly ‘informal’. The article thus emphasizes the importance of exploring how the ‘informal’ and ‘formal’ are actively produced and imagined against each other through material practices and procedures, and the central role of urban engineering in attempts at reconfiguring the social and political dimensions of urban life.