Pavement dwelling in Delhi, India: An ethnographic account of survival on the margins

Deborah K. Padgett, Prachi Priyam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines survival among homeless persons ("pavement dwellers") in Delhi, India. In particular, we explore the role of formal and informal relationships in meeting the demands of daily existence and how and when public social welfare programs assist pavement dwellers. Over fifteen months, beginning in 2013, participant observation was conducted, and approximately 200 individuals (homeless persons, government officials, and NGO representatives) were interviewed in Hindi or English. Triangulated data including documents, interviews, and fieldnotes were subjected to thematic analyses. Results produced five themes: persistent illegality, dependence on charitable others, personhood and worthiness, migration and social isolation, and precarious relationships and distrust. Based on the research findings, we make recommendations for legal inclusion, decriminalization, access to health care, and income support for parents with dependent children. Broader concerns about global homelessness are also discussed in the context of growing income inequality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-81
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Organization
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Global South
  • Homelessness
  • Income inequality
  • Stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences


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