Cultures of commuting: the mobile negotiation of space and subjectivity on Delhi's Metro

Butcher, Melissa (2011). Cultures of commuting: the mobile negotiation of space and subjectivity on Delhi's Metro. Mobilities, 6(2) pp. 237–254.



As part of Delhi’s redevelopment, aimed at creating a ‘global city’ and to prepare for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, new public transport infrastructure is being built. The Metro in particular, has become iconic of what city authorities and developers refer to as Delhi’s ‘cosmopolitan’ and ‘global city’ status. Authorities have attempted to change commuting practices embedded in the culture of Delhi, a crowded, economically and culturally diverse city, in line with desired new behaviours including an emphasis on cleanliness, order and quiet. To explore these developments this paper presents findings from a qualitative study (2009) analysing the urban mobility of a diverse group of young people. Their experience of the Metro revealed interacting fields of power in the city, between passengers and between passengers and those in control of the network. These relationships were situated within wider processes of urban reconstruction that intersect with global flows of capital, technology and ideologies of ‘modernity’ and development. The findings also highlighted the contestation of cosmopolitanism: its use to describe a desired urban imagination and its deployment as everyday competencies of negotiation and flexibility designed to manage change, unfamiliarity and inequality.

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