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Dharavi Documenting Informalities

Maria Lantz & Jonathan Habib Enqvist

Drawing by Monika Marklinger

The 1st edition of the book can be downloaded as PDF:s (above) or ordered from Amazon (2:nd edition)


During our investigations over the years, we have come to realize how important Documents are in urban, global and modern / contemporary life. Dharavi Documenting Informalities is an investigation on how a ”chronical” can be produced - a document on the informal. Could this act of book production, made by a group of 10 artists that enrolled in the post-graduate program Art+Architecture at the Royal Art Institute in Stockholm, make a difference for the slum-dwellers on location in Mumbai?

The group has worked together with the local community in Dharavi to help document the area, often referred to as ”Asias largest slum”. It turned out this book became part of the negotiations on ownership and rights.



Why Documentation?

From the dawn of colonialism, mapping has been of uttermost importance. Maps and images have served the purpose of the powerful to justify ownership. Documents prove the right to what is considered yours. Receipts, identity cards, social security registration certificates, addresses, passports and certified land ownership – all these institutionalized documents that confirm one's existence in the eyes of the rulers, that guarantee acceptance as a member of the formal society. Among other things this gives one the right to interact with others: one can, for instance, legally sell and buy a house, write a contract for sub-letting and renting or go to the bank to borrow money. But most importantly: one has the right to stay where one belongs. In order to reach these fundamental rights, documents are needed.

Documentation is a powerful tool, usually executed by those who have power and who want to stick to it. Documentations serves as a proof of a set of rules.


By the end of the project, things came at stake in Dharavi. The entire area was put on international bidding and the dwellers were threatened to loose not only their houses and self-made institutions. Also their livelihood – the industries, workshops, markets and construction units were to be demolished. In 2009, a decision was suddenly made by Mr Guantam Chatterchee, head of Housing and Planning in Mumbai: To stop the whole bidding process. He claims that the book made him take the final step and call off the sell out.


Documenting Informalities is made in close relation with the Dharavi people, with Mahila Milan, SPARC and NSDF.



Maria Lantz + Jonathan Habib Engqvist, editors




Sophie Allgardh

Stina Ekman

Love Enqvist

Anna Erlandson

Jake Ford

Jonas Jernberg

Martin Karlsson

Monika Marklinger

Johan Widén

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