Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

The shifting sands of land governance in peri-urban Mangaluru, India: Fluctuating land as an ‘informality machine’ reinforcing rapid coastal transformations

Kadfak, Alin; Oskarsson, Patrik


This article examines how unstable land on a sandy peninsula in peri-urban Mangaluru becomes part of urban land contestation to primarily support continued informal tenure. The peninsula is undergoing shifts changing both its shape and land use under the influence of a range of biophysical and human forces. For the time being, fisherfolk can remain in place despite lacking land documents, but much of the peninsula has been proposed for commercial development projects. The sand-spit thus becomes a frontier for variegated land claims part of urbanization processes where the variable ‘nature’ of land is enmeshed. Drawing on urban political ecology and Indian land governance literature, the article highlights how the fluctuating land supports continued informality since the shifting sands make boundaries challenging to delimit and maintain, and, once stabilised, can be claimed by the state. The informalising characteristics of land, understood as an ‘informality machine’, reinforces similar ongoing urban transformations along the entire coastline, to mainly favour elite interests, but can also be seized upon by the fisherfolk themselves for new claims, or workarounds aimed at securing long-term tenure. Future research on the urban land question would do well to include a perspective of land as co-constituted by socio-natural processes.

Published in

Contemporary South Asia
2017, Volume: 25, number: 4

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
      Human Geography
      Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

      Publication Identifiers


      Permanent link to this page (URI)