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Cows, cars and cycle-rickshaws: Bourgeois environmentalism and the battle for Delhi's streets

Authors:
  • Ashoka University and Institute of Economic Growth
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PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
... The 'new' middle class, on the other hand, unencumbered by the moral, ideological and cultural underpinnings of austerity, scarcity and nationalism, unlike its 'old' counterpart, is represented as the cultural icon of Indian modernity and globality in mass-media (Mankekar, 1999;Scrase, 2002). It constitutes a strong 'civil society' that asserts its citizenship and acts as a 'guardian of bourgeois city' and its public spaces (Anjaria, 2009) by engaging in 'bourgeois environmentalism' (Baviskar, 2011), much to the dismay of the urban poor. ...
... It conjures up the image of a class fraught with anxieties of performing its middle classness, as shown by Baviskar and Ray (2011) in their well-timed volume on the middle class, that captured the intersectionality of the middle class with other traditional social groupings such as caste, religion, gender, region or ethnicity that continue to be a decisive marker of status and honour in the Indian society. The editors and some contributors of the volume have to be credited for having made the first forays into the hitherto unexplored spatial context of the middle class by documenting the acts and practices of becoming middle class in spatially different settings, such as IT industry as a space of work (Upadhayaya, 2011), home as a domestic space (Qayum & Ray, 2011), Akshardham Temple (Srivastava, 2011) and the crowded Indian city street (Baviskar, 2011). The multiple and juxtaposing subjectivities and self-definitions of the middle class, thus, make it very problematic to define the new middle class in absolute terms. ...
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Following ‘the spatial turn’ in urban studies, I propose that sociology of India needs to revise its understanding of social stratification by extending its existing focus from the ‘enactment’ and ‘performance’ of class in cultural and political domains to studying how space is equally, if not more, constitutive of identity and difference. Towards this end, this paper forefronts the spatial in understanding how the class differentiations are hierarchised in urban space. It, thus, explores the shopping mall as both a producer as well as a product of the ‘spatialisation’ of India’s new middle class as articulated in the changing ‘spatial practices’ of malls. Drawing from ethnographic research in Delhi and Gurgaon, the paper argues that the materiality of mall is supported by the heterogeneity of middle class consumers who aid the production of a socio-spatial hierarchy as they stop their patronage of old malls when bigger and newer malls enter into urban space with their promise of a better consumer experience – both sensuous and symbolic. Key words: Mall, Middle Class, Spatial Hierarchy, Spatialisation, Stratification
... Wildlife tourism in Africa is widespread, privatised, and provides local livelihood opportunities, whereas in South Asia, such tourism is limited and stateadministered (Cong et al., 2017;Sekhar, 2003). Certain scholars, citing 'bourgeoise environmentalism,' have been critical of the mechanistic science and capitalist economy that rationalizes 'sell[ing] nature for saving it' (Baviskar, 2011;Morris, 1991) and invoke the concept of the 'sacred' (Gadgil & Vartak, 1985). ...
... There has been a recent resurgence in elite and middle-class led civil society initiatives, embedded in notions of 'good citizenship' understood in terms of contributing to economic and social development (Irani, 2019;Subramanian, in press). The questions about education raised in this article are thus situated within a broader interrogation of the balance between public good and class reproduction in contemporary middle-class civic engagement (Baviskar, 2011). ...
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Efforts to desegregate schools have consistently been undermined by privileged parents finding ways to avoid undesirable schools. In some contexts, a more complex picture is emerging, where ‘progressive’ privileged parents choose ‘diverse’ schools but still reproduce segregation. We demonstrate how the desegregation aims of an Indian education policy are similarly undermined by seemingly well-intentioned privileged actors. India’s Right to Education Act of 2009 requires private schools to educate disadvantaged children for free. The architects of this policy imagined that it would not only provide access to quality education for disadvantaged children, but also desegregate schools. Beneficiaries of the policy share the policymakers’ vision of desegregation. However, various elite and middle-class actors prioritise access over integration, and assert that segregated classrooms may be in the best interests of underprivileged children. This highlights how desegregation policies can fail not just as a result of direct opposition but also through discourses of benevolence.
... The growth of industrial manufacturing in particular has been a defining feature of the postmetropolitan (Soja, 2000) spread of Delhi's urbanisation. Initially, this restructuration may have been driven by 'bourgeois environmentalism' 1 (Baviskar, 2011) moving Delhi's polluting industries outside the city's borders and further into the region. However, increasingly this has been entangled with extended urbanisation shaped by a planetary restructuration of the global economy (see -Brenner & Schmid, 2015). ...
... Representatives from dairy colonies whose establishments are proposed to be shifted to north western part of the city in eastern Delhi discussed con icts regarding disposal of animal waste and carcass. In the wake of vulture loss, situation of a vast number of such formal/informal dairy settlements that exist in Delhi and similar cities have been threatened (Baviskar 2020). Open spaces in cities, where immigrants within informal settlements and vultures drew mutual bene ts from birds scavenging on carcasses of livestock that urban poor rear in their backyards have become scarce, precluding animal husbandry practices. ...
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Correlations in the timings of vulture collapse and rapid urbanisation in South Asia have affected the benefit trade-offs concerning conservation-breeding for vulture restoration. We show how the loss of vultures 30 years ago has led to the extinction of experience amongst people in South Asia who are co-adapted to various animal species within shared landscapes. We conducted ethnography that focused on avian scavengers (vultures, kites and crows) in Delhi to unpack how salience and charisma for avian scavengers link with socio-cultural legends. Perceptions about avian scavengers were based on birds’ appearance, behaviour, and ecosystem services. Anthropomorphisation mediated human-animal co-adaptation and drove ritual feeding of commensals that opportunistically consume garbage. Conflated with ethnoecology, such human-constructed niches supported enormous animal populations in the region and drove mutual tolerance. Prior evaluations of scavengers’ niche from biophysical perspectives alone have, therefore, overlooked links between vultures and animal husbandry practices. It undermined competitive release on commensals that have responded by an increase in numbers and distribution, by taking advantage of ritual feeding and people’s affiliative attitudes. The absence of vultures limits the availability of spaces where animal husbandry can be practised . Conversely, expanding built-up spaces, overhead wires, fake news, and interference from competing scavengers will be impediments to vulture restoration. Conservation policies should examine immediate and long-term objectives of solid waste disposal, considering the odds against the attainment of the yesteryear functional ecology of vultures in South Asia. We conclude that wildlife restoration in urbanising tropical landscapes is a moving target, necessitating policies sensitive to progressive loss and/or changes in associative heritage due to shifting economic and cultural practices.
... Representatives from dairy colonies whose establishments are proposed to be shifted to north western part of the city in eastern Delhi discussed con icts regarding disposal of animal waste and carcass. In the wake of vulture loss, situation of a vast number of such formal/informal dairy settlements that exist in Delhi and similar cities have been threatened (Baviskar 2020). Open spaces in cities, where immigrants within informal settlements and vultures drew mutual bene ts from birds scavenging on carcasses of livestock that urban poor rear in their backyards have become scarce, precluding animal husbandry practices. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Correlations in the timings of vulture collapse and rapid urbanisation in South Asia have affected the benefit trade-offs concerning conservation-breeding for vulture restoration. We show how the loss of vultures 30 years ago has led to the extinction of experience amongst people in South Asia who are co-adapted to various animal species within shared landscapes. We conducted ethnography, involving avian scavengers (vultures, kites and crows) in Delhi, to unpack how salience and charisma for avian scavenger’s link with socio-cultural legends. Perceptions about avian scavengers were based on birds’ appearance, behaviour, and ecosystem services. Anthropomorphisation mediated human-animal co-adaptation and drove ritual feeding of commensals that opportunistically consume garbage. Conflated with ethnoecology, such human-constructed niches supported enormous animal populations in the region and drove mutual tolerance. Prior evaluations of scavengers’ niche from biophysical perspectives alone have, therefore, overlooked links between vultures and animal husbandry practices. It undermined competitive release on commensals that have responded by an increase in numbers and distribution, by taking advantage of ritual feeding and people’s affiliative attitudes. The absence of vultures limits the availability of spaces where animal husbandry can be practised . Conversely, expanding built-up spaces, overhead wires, fake news, and interference from competing scavengers will be impediments to vulture restoration. Conservation policies should examine immediate and long-term objectives of solid waste disposal, considering the odds against the attainment of former functional ecology by vultures. We conclude that wildlife restoration in urbanising tropical landscapes is a moving target, necessitating policies sensitive to progressive loss and/or changes in associative heritage due to shifting economic and cultural practices.
... Representatives from dairy colonies whose establishments are proposed to be shifted to north western part of the city in eastern Delhi discussed con icts regarding disposal of animal waste and carcass. In the wake of vulture loss, situation of a vast number of such formal/informal dairy settlements that exist in Delhi and similar cities have been threatened (Baviskar 2020). Open spaces in cities, where immigrants within informal settlements and vultures drew mutual bene ts from birds scavenging on carcasses of livestock that urban poor rear in their backyards have become scarce, precluding animal husbandry practices. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Correlations in the timings of vulture collapse and rapid urbanisation in South Asia have affected the benefit trade-offs concerning conservation-breeding for vulture restoration. We show how the loss of vultures 30 years ago has led to the extinction of experience amongst people in South Asia who are co-adapted to various animal species within shared landscapes. We conducted ethnography, involving avian scavengers (vultures, kites and crows) in Delhi, to unpack how salience and charisma for avian scavenger’s link with socio-cultural legends. Perceptions about avian scavengers were based on birds’ appearance, behaviour, and ecosystem services. Anthropomorphisation mediated human-animal co-adaptation and drove ritual feeding of commensals that opportunistically consume garbage. Conflated with ethnoecology, such human-constructed niches supported enormous animal populations in the region and drove mutual tolerance. Prior evaluations of scavengers’ niche from biophysical perspectives alone have, therefore, overlooked prior links between vultures and animal husbandry practices. It undermined competitive release on commensals that have responded by an increase in numbers and distribution, by taking advantage of ritual feeding and people’s affiliative attitudes. The absence of vultures limits the availability of spaces where animal husbandry can be practised . Conversely, expanding built-up spaces, overhead wires, fake news, and interference from competing scavengers will be impediments to vulture restoration. Conservation policies should examine immediate and long-term objectives of solid waste disposal, considering the odds against the attainment of former functional ecology by vultures. We conclude that wildlife restoration in urbanising tropical landscapes is a moving target, necessitating policies sensitive to progressive loss and/or changes in associative heritage due to shifting economic and cultural practices.
... Focusing on the cycle-rickshaw in Kolkata and Delhi, respectively, Samanta (2012) and Baviskar (2011) argue that contemporary imaginaries of the world-class city show little interest in accommodating such non-motorised forms of transport on the road. Sood (2012) extends this logic further to show how the regulatory framework at the level of the municipal government in Delhi discourages informal transit services providers such as cycle rickshaw drivers through harassment and punitive fines imposed by policy and municipal authorities. ...
Preprint
Prepared for the "Urban Transformations" curriculum of the Sociology subject in EPG-Pathshala, this module highlights the link between transport and land use in Indian cities. It contextualizes issues of motorisation against data on trips undertaken. The module examines the political economy of transit policy, in the context of public transport options such as metro rail, bus rapid transit and intermediate public transport.
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) Understanding Human–Canid Conflict and Coexistence: Socioeconomic Correlates Underlying Local Attitude and Support Toward the Endangered Dhole (Cuon alpinus) in Bhutan.
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Human-wildlife encounters are characterized by a diverse array of engagements located on the continuum between the negative and the positive. In India, protracted conflict with wildlife is reflected in violence across a range of rural and urban ecologies, but is only one aspect of the multiple facets of ongoing human-non-human encounter. Within these shared spaces, there are often equally significant elements of acceptance, tolerance and reverence. Together, these are dependent on context, and can be explored via lived experiences and worldviews, and a moral economy of human-wildlife and human-human relationships. Historically, though hardly static, such relationships have been mediated by the ontological positioning of traditional societies and their embedded rules and practises. In recent years, these tenuous equilibria have been disrupted by top-down catalysts, including universalist conservation agendas percolating from the state and the global arena. This study aims to explore the changing nature of coexistence by using several historical and contemporary vignettes in relation to key species that routinely “transgress” from their primary natural habitats into the “garden” spaces of human cultivation and habitation. The study will argue that insights at the intersection of environmental history, political ecology and anthropology can improve our understanding of human-wildlife coexistence in India as well as across the world.
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