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The Intimate City: Violence, gender, and ordinary life in Delhi slums

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In this paper I use the notion of the intimate city to examine how violence as symbolic, material, embodied and structural becomes an ‘ordinary’ aspect of everyday life in Delhi slums. In particular I am interested in how an intimate governmentality of the state is reworked into intimate gender relationships in this slum, and how this in turn provides a space to its residents to argue for a ‘right to intimacy’ as a right to the city. To do this I focus on the slum as the ‘intimate city’ a space where a violence of law, urban development and intimacy are woven into its material and everyday conditions, where violence is domesticated and rendered as part of the everyday through what Veena Das calls a ‘descent of violence into the realm of the ordinary’. I argue that intimate lives of slum residents living in an exclusionary city challenges the constructed divisions between public and private, rural and urban, tradition and modernity, spectacular and ordinary, by calling into attention how gendered agency manifests not by entering the public realm, but by normalizing intimate sexualized violence across public and private realms.

This talk is part of the Cambridge City Seminar at CRASSH series.

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