Distinctly Delhi: affect and exclusion in a crowded city

Butcher, Melissa (2012). Distinctly Delhi: affect and exclusion in a crowded city. In: Edensor, Tim and Jayne, Mark eds. Urban Theory Beyond the West: A World of Cities. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 173–192.

URL: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/97804155897...


Affective accounts of urban space argue for a reflexive, habitual relationship between inhabitants and the city, often neglecting the role of the subjective and the cultural in this relationship. Extending the understanding of what drives affective responses to difference within the context of a ‘globalising’ city, data was analysed from a qualitative study with twenty three young people from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds living in Delhi. It found that their sensory experience of public spaces led to the affective dissecting of the city into spaces of order and discomfort, inclusion and exclusion. But rather than diminishing the subjective, the findings suggest that affective boundaries were created in an embodied process through the association of sensory experience with judgements of civil and uncivil behaviour. This process was embedded in the established cultural knowledge that defines class, communal and gendered identities, and participants’ place in the city. The paper concludes by suggesting that the ‘cleaning’ up of Delhi, the attempts to remove the sights, smells and sounds of poverty as part of the aesthetics of global living, reinforced distinctions as existing cultural hierarchies were transposed onto a gentrifying city.

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