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Muslims in Indian cities: Degrees of segregation and the elusive ghetto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1286-1307
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number6
Early online date7 Mar 2017
Accepted/In press7 Feb 2017
E-pub ahead of print7 Mar 2017
Published1 May 2017


King's Authors


In India, the country with the third largest Muslim population in the world, residential segregation along religious lines has long been of concern. Many go so far as to speak of the large-scale ‘ghettoization’ of Muslims, a trend commonly attributed to the state’s negligence towards this religious minority and prolonged histories of so-called ‘communal violence’ between religious groups. Others emphasize longstanding pattern of voluntary residential clustering in enclaves. Both the ghetto and the enclave are usually considered highly segregated spaces, though one forced, one voluntary. This paper complicates such views through an in-depth engagement with the seminal ethnographic volume Muslims in Indian Cities, edited by Laurent Gayer and Christophe Jaffrelot. Based on novel quantitative estimates of religious demography, I contrast and compare the same eleven cities studied in their book Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Aligarh, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Delhi, Cuttack, Kozhikode and Bangalore using statistical indices of segregation. This comparison with the ethnographic ‘gold standard’ shows that the mere extent of segregation is an insufficient shortcut to the phenomenon of ghettoization: a ghetto actually need not be highly segregated. Consequently, I argue that one should not only distinguish between voluntary and forced clustering a distinction that is increasingly being made in the literature but also consider the wider ‘mental maps’ through which inhabitants experience, perceive and judge their city a broader complication that has not yet become common practice. Such mental maps specifically help to uncover historical trajectories, feelings of insecurity and the future expectations of people regarding their cities.

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