Navigating 'New' Delhi: moving between difference and belonging in a globalising city

Butcher, Melissa (2010). Navigating 'New' Delhi: moving between difference and belonging in a globalising city. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 31(5) pp. 507–524.



Delhi's government is remodelling the built environment into an imagined 'global city', to attract transnational capital, human resources and an international sports spectacle (the Commonwealth Games 2010). As the city's population is diverted and moved on to make way for new infrastructure, residents are, in the process, traversing new spaces, reappropriating space in new ways and engaging in new interactions. This paper explores the possibilities and challenges of these interactions in a qualitative study of the everyday mobility of 23 diverse young people living in Delhi. The study found that interactions were defined by existing perceptions of 'order' and 'proper' behaviour by known and unknown others. The navigation of both familiar and uncomfortable territories was carried out through the deployment of competencies such as translation and avoidance skills. While the findings indicate that the city contains spaces of interaction that can generate unintended meanings and contest established power relations, these interactions were not always harmonious, reinforcing the idea that social relations that constitute urban space are divergent and unequal. The paper concludes by arguing that while Delhi was divided into spaces of belonging and familiarity, working against the possibilities of interactions with 'others', these spaces can be necessary to manage positions of difference and inequality.

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