Networks & Neighborhood: Phase II

Networks & Neighbourhood : Negotiating Social Ecology

Situated at one time on the edges of Delhi, many sprawling and congested working-class colonies inhabited by generations of rural migrants have now been subsumed into the core of a rapidly mutating metropolitan landscape. The local communities in the neighbourhood of Khirki Village, along with nearby Hauz Rani, is part of the sprawling, congested unauthorised colony of Khirki Extension in South Delhi. The world of informal labour practices here is essentially kept very private, dependent on particular regional and community affiliations, operating within its own pragmatic norms, and fairly sequestered. Like millions of similar tiny and apparently inconsequential sites all over the third world, in terms of economic struggle and subsistence Khirki Village is continually manipulated by global market forces as well as the unyielding pressures of urban ‘development’. The efforts of migrant workers in such sites are appropriated, recycled and reshaped repeatedly to satisfy the voracity of the profit motive and the long chain of its obvious as well as hidden beneficiaries. While the city thus incorporates and assimilates its margins and
redefines its notions of what constitutes the ‘urban’, it also deconstructs provincial attitudes, offers a range of new affiliations and new possibilities of personal freedom to the large population of young working women from these communities. Our project will focus on how this group responds and adapts to the pressures of the constantly changing urban ecology, within the larger contemporary discourse of risk/vulnerability negotiated by women in urban public space. As Delhi-based artists involved for several years in the creation of community-related art projects, REVUE have evolved a personal practice within their larger investigation of socio-cultural conditions in urban contexts, drawing upon oral history, the narration of daily life and the formation/expression of subjectivity. Drawing upon their previous experience in Khoj projects in 2008 and 2009, in collaboration with local people from the heavily populated migrant working-class settlement of Khirki, Hauz Rani, they had many informal and formal dialogues with local women about their notions of public space.

Khirkee is a semi-rural colony on the unauthorised/ laldora area of south Delhi, still retains a strong though vestigial aura of its origins despite now being fully assimilated into the city in every sense. Within the narrow twoor three-storey buildings with small windows and doors, open spaces take the forms of balconies and staircases that angle into the lanes and courtyards. A primary social space is created through cots drawn together in the lane and pushed back when needed to allow vehicles through. Locality women are generally dominated by male family members at home, and in terms of accessing public space are restricted to street corners, parks and shops in their own neighbourhoods. However, many young women often manage to create their own shared collective spaces (on rooftops, terraces, stairwells, at municipal taps, and in nearby markets, malls and beauty parlours) as nodes of community. More recently, technologies such as mobile phones and the internet and public technological nodes such as cyber cafes have radically altered social and professional possibilities. Just as Delhi continues to engulf the peri-urban, technology has swiftly expanded the awareness, skills and confidence of the young women who leave their restricted working-class environment each day and commute to work in distant zones of the city.
For a year research project, REVUE  will explore how young women from once-marginalized colonies negotiate the changes in a local ecology that has to accommodate traditional family and community pressures even while the technologically-enabled elision of urban public and private space brings about shifts in personal identity and professional aspirations. Khirkee and its neighborhood would be their primary project site.


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