Varun Patil

I am an urban studies scholar and have completed my Masters and M.Phil in Sociology at the University of Delhi. I have worked on several research projects that focused on democratizing access to land and housing in cities across India. I am deeply involved in building a Global South approach to urban which accounts for the presence of multiple mutually embedded logics, going beyond the binaries of legal/illegal, local/global and formal/informal. My M.Phil dissertation looked at the sociological causes of crisis of contemporary liberal democracy and experiments in democratizing democracy in South America and India.

A picture of Varun Patil.

Research Project

Currently, as part of the urban property research group BO1 within the SFB, my doctoral dissertation aims to explore how squatters, especially backward caste groups, access housing and consolidate property rights in Dharavi, a prominent squatter settlement in Mumbai, India.  I intend to develop a critical anthropological approach with a focus on the embedded nature of property in multiple layers, including caste relations, and a legal pluralist approach to state, which will bring out the nuances of the ongoing structural transformation of property in Dharavi. As a practicing filmmaker, I also intend to supplement traditional ethnography with visual techniques to bring out the rich play of space in the field.


  • Paper presented by Varun Patil on panel on Interrogating State capacity on the issue of slum housing at IIPN annual conference at Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad IIM (International conference) on December 13th, 2022.
  • Paper presented by Varun Patil at International workshop: City Drafting: Property-making and Bureaucratic Urbanism in South Asia University of Pennsylvania on May 23rd 2022. Paper presented is currently in review with CITY Journal (Taylor and Francis) as part of Special issue on Bureaucratic Urbanism.


  • Patil, V. & Benjamin, S., 2023, Centering land: Exploring the dynamic between practices of city state and urban condition in Indian cities, in: Gaffou Claire Benoit (eds.), Practices of the State in Urban Governance, Routledge UK Publishers (in Review).
  • Patil, V. 2022, Theorising Contestations over Decongesting Street Economies: Beyond Narratives of Inevitable Dispossessions and Shared Commons, in: Jha, S. and Bharat G. eds., The Social Life of Streets in India: Histories, Contestations and Subjectivities. Bloomsbury India.