[CSH-CPR Urban Workshop #145 ONLINE]
‘Unsafe’ bodies, hostile city: Governing the houseless in India during Covid-19 induced lockdown (P. Banerjee, R. Kundu & M. Paul)
The Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH) & The Centre for Policy Research (CPR)
‘Unsafe’ bodies, hostile city: Governing the houseless in India during Covid-19 induced lockdown
Paroj Banerjee (Lecturer (Teaching) and Joint Programme Leader, DPA, DPU, University College London),
Ratoola Kundu, (Assistant Professor, Centre of Policy and Governance, TISS, Mumbai) &
Maggie Paul, (PhD scholar, University of Adelaide, Australia)
Tuesday, 29 March 2022, 3:45 PM IST onwards.
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About the Talk
The imposition of a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in India was not only sudden but also violent. The idea of safety that circulated during the pandemic reinforced hegemonic ideas of ‘home’ as a space of care and belonging. Paradoxically, the city’s houseless communities were rendered hypervisible and simultaneously categorised as a potential source of contagion and a threat to the public. Drawing from our ongoing research in Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi on the struggles of the houseless communities during 2020 to 2021, this talk examines how the governance of the pandemic, shaped by particular ideas of public health and safety, exacerbated everyday insecurities amongst the houseless population. Houseless communities were subjected to stricter measures of control, surveillance, removal from the visible public spaces and segregation.
In this talk, we highlight how different histories and arrangements of houseless communities led to their varied forms of negotiation and resistance in the face of a hostile city. While there were piecemeal and ad hoc measures to extend support to the houseless communities, we argue that these extraordinary measures were not informed by the principle of care and well-being but instead served to further dehumanize and stigmatize the houseless communities. The study raises important policy and governance questions about houseless communities in the city, arguing that the predominant shelter-centric policy discourse fails to capture the agency, the lived realities and fundamental contributions and specific vulnerabilities of those who have made a home in the city but do not have a ‘house’ to live in.
About the Speakers
Paroj Banerjee is an urban ethnographer researching, teaching and writing about home, belonging, and everyday responses to marginalisation and spatial precarity. A lecturer based at the Development Planning Unit at University College London, she has a PhD from the Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science and M.A. from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She has deeply engaged with issues of social, economic and political inclusion and anti-discrimination mobilisations in India. Her doctoral work on footpath dwellers in Mumbai contributes towards non-Western understanding and non-dominant realities of the intimate and the public. Paroj is Principal Investigator and Project Lead of the ‘Humaree Pehchaan’ project, a collective of activists and academicians collaborating on inclusive cities.
Ratoola Kundu is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Urban Policy and Governance at TISS Mumbai. She has a PhD in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago (2010). Her research interests lie at the intersection of understanding the different trajectories of the production of urban space and the ways in which particular marginalised groups experience, contribute to and actively resist exclusionary forms of socio-spatial neoliberal urban transformations. She has worked on several collaborative national and international research projects on urban housing, infrastructure development, informal work, urban governance and urban planning. Ratoola is co-PR and Chairperson of the ‘Humaree Pehchaan’ project.
Maggie Paul is a PhD candidate in Politics and International Relations at the University of Adelaide, Australia. Her PhD thesis focuses on the question of migrant citizenship within the larger politics of pandemic in the country. Her broader interests include the contestations of citizenship in the South Asian context, politics at the urban margins as well as decolonial and pluriversal theory/practice. She has previously taught at TISS, Mumbai and held research consultation positions with various non-profits in India. Besides work, she is an avid gardener, cyclist and collector of myths. Maggie is a Research Associate with the ‘Humaree Pehchaan’ project focusing on primary data collection and analyses in the city of Mumbai.
This is the hundred and forty-fifth in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society and politics. For further information, please contact: Aprajita Sarcar of CSH at aprajita[dot]sarcar[at]csh-delhi[dot]com, Mukta Naik at mukta[at]cprindia[dot]org or Marie-Hélène Zerah at marie[hyphen]helene[dot]zerah[at]ird[dot]fr.