Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

14.06. BERSAS Film SCREENING ("Survey City", 2024) & LECTURE with Prof. Sanjay Srivastava (SOAS)


We warmly invite you to a


Prof. Sanjay Srivastava

(School of Oriental and African Studies London, Department of Anthropology and Sociology).



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Prof. Srivastava will first screen his latest co-directed documentary

"Survey City" (2024).


After the film screening, Prof. Srivastava will give a talk on the topic of

"Entangled Sovereignties:

New Land Markets, an Entrepreneurial State and the Aspirations of a 'Criminal Caste' in Gurgaon, Haryana"



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About the film:
Ayesha and her family live in a Delhi basti (informal settlement). She wants nothing more than to have security of tenure of her tiny house at the precarious edges of Delhi. There are always rumours of demolition as the land is classified as ‘illegally occupied’. Ayesha and her neighbours – who mostly collect materials for recycling – are always trying to work out ways of becoming permanent residents of a city in which they were born and have lived.

India’s capital, Delhi, is a highly unequal city. By various estimates, between 15-30% of the population lives on just 0.5% of the land in low-income informal settlements, the bastis. For basti residents, such as Ayesha, tenure security and access to legal title to land depends on inclusion in multiple government surveys that promise these. These promises most frequently arrive at election time.

However, though documents produced through surveys promise clarity and certainty to the urban poor, they are simultaneously part of confusing processes that are unclear to both those who are being documented and doing the documentation.

This film explores the human elements – fear, anxieties, hope, confusion – that surround the urban poor’s efforts to be good citizens and listen to the state as it promises a better life through surveys and documentation. It also explores the frequently inexplicable nature of the state and its processes as it deals with those at the precarious edges of the city. The film focuses on the discovery of a set of survey-related document intended to provided security of tenure but was declared ‘lost’.

Between the lost document and their eventual discovery in a government office, lies the story of a locality, its people and mysterious relationships between government records and citizens. This is the story of Delhi’s Border basti.

Trailer "Survey City" (2024)


Prof. Sanjay Srivastava is an anthropologist and British Academy Global Professor. His research is primarily focused on South Asia and spans across themes of urbanism and urban cultures, consumer cultures, the new-middle classes, masculinities, and new cultures of work.




More information about BERSAS here.


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Supported by RePLITO:

Beyond Social Cohesion - Global Repertoires of Living Together.