Date of Award

Spring 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Dr. Asif Agha

Second Advisor

Dr. Ritty A. Lukose

Third Advisor

Dr. Greg Urban


This study investigates the construction of globally familiar landscapes of malls, office towers, and high-rise housing complexes in Indian cities. Across the country, firms eager to produce these elite landscapes are snatching up industrial estates, inner-city slums, and peri-urban agricultural land, displacing the poor and forcing up land prices in the process. This study draws on interviews with foreign and Indian investors, developers, and consultants, as well as participant observation with a European real estate fund in India, in order to examine the decisions and practices of the industry members who are constructing these landscapes; it argues that they are transforming Indian land and buildings into new, international routes of capital accumulation. This dissertation examines the ways in which real estate industry members use representations of a prosperous globally integrated Indian future to fuel the expansion of global finance capital into Indian real estate. It highlights the creative role that stories about the future play in shaping investors’ actions, thus contributing to our understanding of the productive power of speculation. This study also examines the image-work and politics that marks collaborations between Indian developers and their foreign investor-partners, who differ on how to conduct business, value land, and define construction quality. By examining how industry members struggle to overcome differences in order to close deals and construct buildings, this research demonstrates that the expansion of capitalism and the transformation of space are cultural projects, dependent on the reproduction of social ideologies, business cultures, and figures of personhood.

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