Solo-cities – Public Events

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Solo-cities:  Representations of the ‘Single’ in Urban Spaces – 
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Day 1: Tuesday October 6, 2015 6:30-8:00 pm. Welcome & Public Keynote I:

Sanjay Srivastava (Delhi): Technotopias, consumer cultures and the meaning of ‘single’

Introduction by Christiane Brosius (Heidelberg)
Discussant: Yiu Fai CHOW (Hong Kong)


This discussion takes up three contemporary contexts that relate to the making and re-making of urban spaces as well as issues of ‘safety’, particularly as they relate to women. These are 1) the state sponsored ‘Smart Cities’ scheme, 2) privately promoted mobile apps that seek to pinpoint ‘dangerous’ and ‘safe’ localities, and, 3) ‘Guidelines’ issued by the University Grants Commission in April 2015 for the safety of female university students. The discussion situates these contexts in relation to two broader social and political processes which I refer to as ‘post-nationalism’ and ‘moral consumption’. The discussion suggests that ideas of urban spaces, public spaces, and gendered subjectivities entangled in processes that are remaking the ways in which we think about the relationships between the state, private capital, technology, citizenship and consumer cultures. I suggest that the terms  ‘post-nationalism’ and ‘moral consumption’ allow us to make a preliminary foray into investigating a complex social world that relates to the making of new publics, the relay between public and private, and relationships of power that seek to define the terms of the debate.

Sanjay Srivastava is Professor of Sociology at Jawharlal Nehru University, Delhi. His publications include Constructing Postcolonial India: National Character and the Doon School (1998), Asia: Cultural Politics in the Global Age (2001, co-authored), Sexual Sites, Seminal Attitudes. Sexualities, Masculinities and Culture in South Asia (2004, contributing editor), Passionate Modernity, Sexuality, Class and Consumption in India (2007), Sexuality Studies (2013, contributing editor), and Entangled Urbanism: Slum, Gated Community and Shopping Mall in Delhi and Gurgaon. He is currently working on a project urban spaces and urban politics. Sanjay Srivastava also co-editor of the journal Contributions to Indian Sociology.

8:00 pm            Reception

Day 2: Wednesday October 7, 2015 4:15-5:45 pm Public Keynote II:

Lucetta KAM Yip Lo (Hong Kong) : Queer Mobility of Chinese “Single” Women

Introduction: Jeroen de Kloet (Amsterdam)
Discussant: Shilpa Phadke (Mumbai)


Mobility of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) people around the globe has been accelerated in the past 30 years due to both structural (migration policy, law governing sexuality and gender) and private factors. Mobility cross national borders, from rural to urban areas, from city to city has accelerated as a result of the globalization of economy, the rise of a global gay culture and cities, the introduction of progressive sexual and gender laws in some countries, the availability of gay tourism, and a hostile environment in one’s home country. The movement can be caused by more intimate reasons. For example, the aspiration to live a life free from family control, to reunite with one’s same-sex partner in another continent, to look for LGBTQ communities in another city for social support, to explore job opportunities in another country where people do not need to hide their non-normative sexualities or genders at work, to move to another state where lesbians can adopt a child or be accessible to reproductive technology.

I use the term “queer mobility” to refer to rural-urban, inter-cities, or transnational, trans-continental movement of queer Chinese women from their home country/ city to have temporary or permanent stay in the host countries. It is queer because the cause of the movement is mainly or partly related to one’s sexual or gender nonconformity. In this presentation, I will tell the stories of mobility of a few queer “single” women originally from Mainland China and Hong Kong. Their destinations include metropolitan cities within China and cities across continents in North America, Europe and Australia. “Single” is put in quotation marks because those women are defined to be “single” by heteronormative standards, that are, they are not in a heterosexual marriage nor in any long-term intimate relationship with a man. The stories I am going to tell and re-tell are their mobility across cities and their lives in transit as queer “single” women.

Lucetta Y. L. Kam is a researcher, creative writer and queer activist. She is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing at Hong Kong Baptist University. She teaches gender, sexuality studies and creative writing. Her research interests are queer ethnography, lesbian studies in Chinese societies, and Hong Kong studies. She is the author of Shanghai Lalas: Female Tongzhi Communities and Politics in Urban China (2013; Chinese edition 2015). Her articles have appeared in Rutledge Handbook of Sexuality Studies in East Asia, As Normal as Possible: Negotiating Gender and Sexuality in Mainland China and Hong Kong, AsiaPacifiQueer: Rethinking Gender and Sexuality in the Asia-Pacific and Journal of Lesbian Studies.

6:15-20:15 pm   Public Film Screening and Panel Discussion:

Being Solo in the City: Representing Women in Film and Performance

Film Screening: “Where’s Sandra?” by Paromita Vohra (18 mins, 2005)
Input Statements & Discussion:
Paromita Vohra (Mumbai), Ranjani Mazumdar (Delhi), Aparajita De (Delhi)
Chair: Melissa Butcher (London)

Day 3: Thursday October 8, 2015 4:00-5:30 pm Public Keynote III:

Gillian Rose (Milton Keynes): Seeing the City in Digital Times: Photography, Network, Method

Introduction: Melissa Butcher


Digital technologies of various kinds are now the means through which many cities are made visible and their spatialities negotiated.  From casual snaps shared on Instagram to elaborate photo-realistic visualisations, digital technologies for making, distributing and viewing cities are more and more pervasive.  This talk will work through some of the implications of that digitisation for the cultural politics of representation, particularly the representation of women in cities.  What and who is being made visible in these digitally mediated cities, and how?  What forms of urban materiality, spatiality and sociality are pictured and performed?  And how should that picturing be theorised?  Using a range of examples from current efforts to show us ‘smart cities’ in particular, the talk will examine the shape of the urban futures that they offer.

Gillian Rose is Professor of Cultural Geography at The Open University, UK, and a Fellow of the British Academy.  Her current research interests focus on contemporary digital visual culture, urban spatialities and visual research methodologies.  Her most recent funded research (with Monica Degen) examined how architects work with digital visualising technologies in designing urban redevelopment projects, and she is extending this work into the digital mediation of urban spaces more broadly, particularly in the context of ‘smart cities’.  As well as a number of papers on images and ways of seeing in urban and domestic spaces, she is the author of Feminism and Geography (Polity, 1993) and Doing Family Photography: The Domestic, The Public and The Politics of Sentiment (Ashgate, 2010).  The fourth edition of her bestselling Visual Methodologies (Sage) will be published in 2016.

Gillian blogs at visual/method/culture and tweets @ProfGillian.

6:00-7:30 pm “Shorts in the City”

Screenings of short films by Oindrila Duttagupta, Priyanka Chhabra, Shilpi Gulati and Shaheen Ahmed

The panel brings together four young filmmakers based in Delhi to showcase their work and engage in a discussion on the workshop’s themes. Their short films touch upon a variety of topics ranging from mobility, singlehood and opportunity, as well as women’s experiences of comfort and pleasure, sexuality and shame intimidation and independence. They present glimpses of both private and public spaces, visual fragments that conjure up affective geographies of the metropolis. The aim of the session is not only to explore representations of city-life, but also to look at Delhi through the camera’s lens. How does the city inspire young female filmmakers? What subjects are dear to them? What aspects of city living do they feel the urge to linger on? How do they convey their experiences? The screenings will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers and writer/ journalist Nisha Susan.

Chair/Discussant: Nisha Susan