Devra Waldman’s PhD Thesis Proposal

Title: “Men, Materials, and Money: A Multi-Sited Global Ethnography of Sport-Focused Residential Developments in India”

Supervisor: Dr Brian Wilson (Kinesiology)
Committee Members: Dr. Renisa Mawani (Sociology), Dr. Michael Silk (Bournemouth University)

Abstract: My dissertation research will focus on the emergence, impacts and implications of gated, sport and leisure focused, residential developments being produced by an India-based property developer called M3M. While M3M currently has 17 projects under development, this dissertation study will concentrate on their current gated residential developments in Gurgaon, India – developments that are designed and implemented using golf and polo brands and identities as anchors. The study will be carried out using research techniques associated with what Burawoy (2000) refers to as multi-sited global ethnography.

The overarching goal of this study is to better understand how these spatial developments came to be, and the broader implications of these spatial developments. I will pursue this goal by examining how the boundaries of these spaces are socially constructed and negotiated, and how the particularities of these places arise from structures, forces, and relationships outside their specific confines. The following research questions will guide the research: 1) how are these communities produced physically and discursively by public and private actors, and what are the multiple, contested, and contradictory meanings of these spaces; 2) how are decisions made regarding the development of gated residential complexes, and what is the role of sporting brands/identities in the building of such spaces; 3) how are these communities experienced by those living/working in and around the boundaries, and how do the politics of inclusion/exclusion relate to shifting relationships between the state, populations, and spatial fragmentations; and 4) how is the development of these spaces connected to broader financial capital, neoliberal urban reforms, and legacies of colonialism.

This dissertation will draw from and build on existing research on economic liberalization and spatial shifts in India, the phenomenon of and implications of gated residential developments, and the role and place of sport and leisure in large-scale urban spatial changes. Theoretically, this study will utilize a combination of postcolonial and political economic approaches. It is inspired especially by Chakrabarty’s (2000) arguments for ‘Provincializing Europe’ and Ong’s (2006) concepts of ‘neoliberalism as exception’ and ‘exceptions to neoliberalism’ – arguments and concepts that will be used to support my examination of how the development of sport-focused residential developments are tied to macro-structural institutions and markets, and of other (e.g., micro-level) forces at play in such developments. Three main research techniques will be featured as I conduct a multi-sited global ethnography. These are: participant observation in and around the communities; interviews with property developers, architects, public officials, city planners, individuals buying property in the community – and those displaced by the development; and a Qualitative Document Analysis (Altheide et al, 2008) of planning documents and promotional materials by M3M, local urban and city planning documents and related archival materials, advertisements for the development and related press releases, and newspaper/media coverage.

Through this study, I hope to contribute to the critical dialogue about the emergence and impacts of transnational corporate real estate developments, the perceived centrality of (sporting) brand identities in the making of ‘home’ and ‘place’, and the lived experiences of those included and excluded from such spaces.