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A Performance of Disparity on Indian Roads or How the claims of an automotive public to road space are marginalizing other users?

Authors: Govind Gopakumar*, Concordia University
Topics: Urban Geography, Asia, Transportation Geography
Keywords: automobility, mobility, disparity, India, streets, urban
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Roads in urban India are undergoing a rapid transition away from being seen as chaotic but hospitable spaces of mixed traffic moving at different speeds and in multiple directions to being dedicated conduits for a parade of automobilization that actively excludes and marginalizes the non-automobilized (pedestrians, disabled, vendors, cyclists and other non-motorized users). A common line of argument one finds in the literature proposes that such a transition has been facilitated by the political economic influence marshaled by social elites who are increasingly impatient with the inability of the city to cater to their need for a ‘world-class’ experience in moving around. Their efforts find a ready partner with governing elites who themselves draw inspiration from a world-class aesthetic governmentality. But such an understanding while necessary, does not go the full length of explaining the mechanics how this disparity in claims is articulated. Braiding together recent scholarship on citizenship enactment, material participation from science and technology studies, and constructions of Indian citizenship, I propose that automotive citizenship is being assembled as a durable performance of disparity on Indian roads. Thus, I demonstrate using empirical data from the city of Bengaluru that a particular ensemble of road infrastructures, street designs, practices of driving, and social media together evoke a performance whereby the automobile-using public is enfranchised, while at the same time disregarding the claims of other publics to road space.

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