Recombinant Urbanization: Agrarian–urban Landed Property and Uneven Development in India


This article develops the concept of recombinant urbanization to show how agrarian landed property and land‐based caste/class relations shape the production of post‐liberalization urban real estate markets in India. I focus on two interrelated but differentiated agrarian property regimes in western Maharashtra to argue that real estate development is building on prior uneven agrarian land markets, which were themselves sociotechnically produced by colonial and postcolonial development politics. Through an examination of the organizational form of sugar cooperatives, which mediated agrarian capitalism in an earlier era, I track how these primary agricultural cooperatives are now being reorganized into real estate companies, sometimes with former sugarcane growers as company shareholders. The same caste‐based political and social capital that made sugar cooperatives possible in a capitalist agrarian society is now being leveraged by agrarian elites to ease their own and their constituents’ entry into an urbanizing economy. The concept of recombinant urbanization opens new methodological entryways to analyze the entangled agrarian and urban question in predominantly agrarian and late liberalizing societies.