“Where to go and not go”- The exclusionary politics of urban spaces in Kolkata

Authors: Ritwika Biswas*, Temple University
Topics: Urban Geography, Women, Asia
Keywords: Urban space, public space, identity, symbolic violence, accessibility, violence against women, perceptions, everyday life, experiences, women, global South, India.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Marshall West, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The purpose of this paper is to examine how multiple social identities like gender, class, religion and age ties in with notions of accessibility and safety in urban public spaces of Kolkata, India. In an attempt to explore what constitutes safe and unsafe spaces to gain a deeper understanding of differentiated accessibility and women’s vulnerability to sexual violence in public spaces, the study goes beyond gender and explores the perceptions of women and men of different religion, class, caste and age. Using qualitative methods of data collection like in-depth interviewing, key informant interviewing and focus group discussions, the study was conducted over a period of seven months and involved 30 women and men aged 18 to 65 of diverse groups as well as 18 key informants and 5 focus groups, each with four participants. The narratives of participants expose different ways socially privileged identities, mostly gender, religion and class (in this case, upper class, Hindu men) maintain their hegemony over city spaces by marginalizing other groups. By analyzing the everyday experiences and perceptions of different groups, the research reflects upon forms of symbolic violence that are ingrained in everyday lives of people, working in subtle ways to create the differentiated accessibility in the city. In doing so, this study will integrate a global South perspective to the understanding of urban spaces, accessibility and safety, thereby broadening feminist theories of urban space.

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