Experiencing and Imagining Inside and Outside: Autonomy, Safety and Risk

by Christiane Brosius, Project leader

The concept of autonomy explored with particular attention by the Heidelberg team contributes to Christiane Brosius research foci in various ways. The key social group of informants in this ethnography are middle-aged professional women of the educated middle class, living in South Delhi since at least a decade, if not more. Two studies will study their imaginations and experiences of and navigations in public, and how these affect their ideas of independent womanhood.

1. Mapping autonomy and safety

The first case-study concerns the connection of notions of safety and risk with respect to the coining of Delhi as ‘world class city’ (Brosius 2014/2010). Of particular interest is the experience, mapping and visualisation of the street as a site of conspicuous consumption (flânerie), time-pass and loitering, as well as transit (e.g., from work to home or from home to leisure). Sites such as malls, cafes, restaurants, gyms and parks are explored as parts of the informants’ everyday topographies and points of orientation and contestation. Much attention will be put on the ways in which one particular organisation,Jagori, has come to commission and conduct research to foster plans and strategies of women’s safety in Delhi: “Safe Delhi Campaign” aims at mobilising people to act and make the city safer for women and girls, to increase sensitivity and change the aesthetics of the city accordingly. The case study analyses the reports since 2009, conducts interviews with those involved in their production as well as urban designers from the School of Planning and Architecture. The fact that reports have been made over the period of five years allows to study the changes and continuities of classifications of danger and safety, and to contextualise them within a broader milieu of events and policies within the city and beyond. The wider frames of reference are similar initiatives for gender-inclusive cities in the USA, Europe and Africa.

2. Art/media production

This case-study highlights the notion of gender and urban space by taking women artists and their works as anchors of analysis. 2-3 artists from Delhi will be studied closely, as they engage with themes related to gendered urban spaces, both in installations and in archiving matters. This ranges from the ruptures and development of women protest movements and spaces of protest in Delhi in and through photography since the 1970s, to the making of documentary films on singlehood. This case-study will find some output in the planned workshop at the Goethe-Institute Delhi as well as the planned exhibition in Amsterdam.