March 26, 2012

Unfriendly Bodies, Unfriendly Cities: Reflections on Loitering and Gendered Public Space

From the Facebook event page here.

You are invited to the Eighth Professor L. B. Kenny Endowment Lecture to be given by Shilpa Phadke at 6 pm on the 28th of March 2012. Tea is at 5.30 pm at the Durbar Hall, Asiatic Society of Mumbai, Horniman Circle, Mumbai.

Abstract of Talk:
In this presentation I seek to further develop the ideas around loitering put forth in Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets, a book I co-authored where we argued that the celebration of loitering was an important way of claiming city public spaces in defiance of laws against loitering after sunset and before sunrise. We argued that the only way in which women might find unconditional access to public space was if everyone, including those who were not necessarily friendly to women also had unconditional access. Subsequently in conversations with feminist activists who work particularly with young women we’ve been challenged several times on the grounds that everyone loitering includes even those ‘others’ (often young men) who intimidate young women and inhibit their access thus in fact restricting the access of young women.

In this presentation I reflect on the question of unfriendly bodies in cities: who they might be and what they might mean for varied marginal groups’ access to public space as well as the idea of unfriendly cities; understood both as cities full of all kinds of risks as well as cities premised on exclusion in quest of ‘global sanitized utopias’. Focusing on a politics of justice in access to public space, this paper asks: What does it mean to stake an equal claim for all to loiter in public space? How does one engage with the threat posed by one group of such loiterers to another potential group? How does one understand claim staking in a context where city public spaces are surveillanced and policed? What are the claims of different kinds of bodies and how can we arrive at an idea of justice that at least attempts to address the claims of as many different groups as possible?

Short Bio

Shilpa Phadke is a sociologist. She is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Media and Cultural Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She has been educated at St. Xavier’s College, SNDT University, TISS in Mumbai and the University of Cambridge, UK. She is co-author of Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets. Her doctoral research focused on questions of heterosexuality in the new spaces of consumption in Mumbai. She has published both in academic journals and anthologies and in the popular media. Her areas of concern include gender and the politics of space, the middle classes, sexuality and the body, feminist politics among young women, reproductive subjectivities, feminist parenting, and pedagogic practices.


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