Profile of Ms Tara Saharan Delft University of Technology

Tara Saharan

With a background in architecture, urban planning and international development studies, I have completed my PhD from University of Amsterdam. Presently, I am working as post-doc in TU Delft, The Netherlands.

General research interests

My research interest focuses on a range of thematic issues related to urban planning, decision support processes, governance, inequality, women rights organizations, decolonialization and comparative urbanism.

PhD/Postdoctoral Research Title

‘Slum’ and the City: Exploring relations of informal settlements comparatively in Chennai, India and Durban, South Africa

PhD Abstract

Although urbanization has the potential to make cities and countries develop, many urban residents and cities struggle with fragmented growth accompanied by high levels of inequality. Despite several decades of policy intervention, there is still a shortage in affordable housing and ‘slums’ continue to exist in the global South. Prior studies on informal settlements either had a micro focus on slum households or undertook a macro structural analysis of urban poverty, but usually did not combine the two perspectives. This thesis addresses this gap and explores the relations between the ‘slum’ and the city by integrating the micro perspective of households’ livelihoods strategies vis-à-vis the strategies for informal settlements outlined in policy, planning and practices of the state. The main question raised in this thesis is - How are informal settlements transformed through relations across/within multiple scales (geographic and institutional) and how does this transformation link to household opportunities for building livelihoods? Based on a mixed method design of research, the thesis shows that informal settlements often act as ‘nodes’ within the wider socio-spatial networks of which they are a part. By exploring how the households have transformed over time vis-à-vis the settlements and cities where they are embedded, the thesis reveals two distinct relations that operate between city and the settlement, and the settlement and the households. In analysing these relations, the thesis illustrates the need for looking beyond the planning based technocratic solutions for informal settlements.