Aid / 28.05.2009

By Anjum Altaf The success of Slumdog Millionaire has made the slum an image familiar to a lot more people in both East and West. Is it possible to use that image to discover something new about South Asia? It was not the movie that triggered the idea itself but a chapter in a very old book that I happened to be reading. The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, first published in 1961, is a classic described by the New York Times Book Review as “perhaps the most influential single work in the history of town planning… a work of literature.” It contains a fascinating chapter titled ‘Unslumming and Slumming’ that made me realize that while we have overused slums as a descriptive category we have underused it as an analytical one.