Friends and Frenemies: A case study of social networks among urban farmers in Delhi, India

Authors: Jessica Diehl*, National University Of Singapore
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Behavioral Geography, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Urban agriculture, Cultural geography, Social networks, Social capital
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 48
Presentation File: Download



The poor and marginalized do not exist in social isolation; the multi-layered and dimensional social ties built through everyday social interactions, often to meet daily needs, may link them to those better off socially, economically or politically (Cornwall, 2008; Pelling & High, 2005). “Despite having limited options, the critically vulnerable can generate structures that help reduce their vulnerability…[and] the most effective strategies tend to be collective” (Vasquez-Leon, 2009, p. p. 290). However, the relationship between social ties and vulnerability is not well understood. The objective of this paper was to investigate social networks among poor urban farming households facing land development in Delhi, India. Using a mixed-methods case study design, I conducted semi-structured interviews with 120 neighboring households. Competition among farmers was an obvious defining aspect of their relationships due to market-orientation with the same consumer base. However, there was a complex and dynamic pattern of influence, access, and blockage to tangible and intangible resources within the community. Farmers who said people generally helped each other mentioned that people were all from the same place, that people helped in cash or kind (i.e. loans and labor), shared gossip, advice, vegetables, time in labor, or helped to bring sick ones to the hospital. Those who said people generally didn’t help each other mentioned that everyone was in the same situation—had “the same problems.” They mentioned rivalries and jealousy. This study illustrates different patterns of social exchanges can be concurrently positive and negative in coping with livelihood threats.

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