"It is gliding, like a bird": of aspirations and inspirations on the Hyderabad metro

Authors: Sneha Annavarapu*,
Topics: Transportation Geography, Development, Qualitative Research
Keywords: transportation; transit; cultural geography; affect; South Asia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 4:30 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Regency Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

With traffic congestion and traffic jams becoming a major social problem in most urban centers in India, the sense of "being stuck" and of inevitable delay has become rather commonplace in everyday 'traffic talk'. To this end, metro systems have been constructed as the most desirable and 'smart' solution for mass transit in India. Very often borne out of a public-private partnership, these metro transit projects have come to symbolize - and promise - modernity, seamless mobility, technological advancement, and "world class" urban development. Hyderabad, a bustling urban city in southern India is one such city in which the inauguration of an elevated metro system in 2018 was greeted with anticipated for its promise to provide relief to commuters tired of "chaotic" traffic. I propose that interrogating narratives, embodied experiences and popular understandings of Hyderabad's metro as a solution to congestion is critical to thinking about the interrelationships between various modes of navigating the city. Showing evidence from ethnographic work conducted before the inauguration of the metro (2017) and after (2018), I show how the affective atmosphere of elevated metro systems provide a sense of floating, gliding, flying above the "ground realities below" which brokers specific fantasies that Hyderabadi city-dwellers have to traveling and commuting. Finally, I use Doreen Lee's concept of "infrastructural aptitudes" to show how the elevated metro system produces a kind of a 'commuter subjectivity' in a sociotechnical assemblage which mediates the relationship Hyderabad's have to their city.

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