ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Feminist Critical Medical Anthropology Methodologies

The author is a critical feminist medical anthropologist who has been engaged in ethnographic research on women's health issues in India for the past 25 years. Drawing from her own research experiences, this paper explores the methodologies entailed in research as a feminist critical medical anthropologist: by unpacking core methodological assumptions behind each component of her disciplinary position, introducing methodologies at each level--sociocultural anthropology, medical anthropology, critical medical anthropology, and finally feminist critical medical anthropology. It also examines how she has operationalised the fusion of these methodological approaches in her own research projects. The ways in which the findings from this research have contributed to our understanding of gender and can be useful for improving healthcare for women are also discussed.

The Erotics of Risk

This paper invites contemporary Indian feminism to take a leap outside of its faith--via a humanities turn, using sexualities as a tool--to find a path in academic praxis that resists the structures of moral policing and panics consuming our current political climate. Sexualities offer off-roading alternatives to developmental formations of gendered modernity that confine themselves to the tested, the programmatic and the ethical. The humanities as a method, through sexualities, can propel gender studies to an irrational wanton terrain away from the logics of rights, power and punishment via an engagement with praxis, form and situation into sharp materialist-hedonist possibilities of language, pleasure, profanation, the precarious and the tragic.

Stories We Tell

One of the central methodological insights of feminist science studies has been refuting the binary worlds of nature and culture. Over the last three decades, feminist science studies has developed a vibrant epistemological, and methodological apparatus for studying the natural world as a naturecultural world. Bringing together (inter)disciplinary methodologies, philosophies, practices, assumptions, methods and languages of women's studies and the natural sciences, we see the emergence of new modes of knowledge production. This paper explores the epistemological challenges of studying gender in the natural and physical sciences and the methodological tools the field has developed to study the human and non-human, life and non-life.

Real Life Methods

This paper argues that an emancipatory impulse is critical and central to feminist method--one which effectively counters a widespread fetishisation of social science research where little attention is paid to the relationships of production of research findings and conclusions. Just as the women's movement and its political critique has affected discourses that are not specifically about gender or sexual distinctions, the emancipatory impulse of feminist methods can also be deployed in enquiries that are not focused entirely on gendered accounts of social phenomena. The aim of this study is not to essentialise certain methods as "feminist" but rather to suggest that methods used by a researcher who is a feminist, in enquiries into phenomenon that throw up questions of hierarchies other than gender, would not remain uninfluenced by her feminist politics. This claim is bolstered by the author's experiences as a feminist researcher studying the segregation of Muslims in Delhi.

New Regimes of Private Governance

New forms of urban organisation with private modes of governance are being unleashed across India through the creation of special economic zones, industrial townships and smart cities. This paper aims to bring a grounded understanding of the emergence of such spaces by examining the transformation of the governance systems in Electronics City in peri-urban Bengaluru with the constitution of the Electronics City Industrial Township Authority. Even though ELCITA is not a democratically elected body, it is vested with the powers of a municipality, including the power to levy property tax and perform municipal functions. Such an institution could be created because of an exception provided for industrial townships under the 74th constitutional amendment. New urban regimes like ELCITA are created to bypass the social and political realities of Indian cities. Does this represent a new regime of governance that questions some of the basic premises of state authority in a democracy?

Making Sense of Place in Rajarhat New Town

The West Bengal government's plan to develop the Rajarhat new township on the periphery of Kolkata in the mid-1990s unwittingly produced an urban landscape that contradicts the master plan. The new town is fragmented into a formal network of roads and gated residential high-rise complexes on the one hand, and dense urban villages with traditional housing layouts on the other. Urban villages and gated communities represent a continuum of new urban living which is marked by a constant need to make sense of the changed reality through varied strategies of place-making. These are in response to the multiple ways in which inhabitants of these very distinct settlement types have been unsettled by urbanisation. The particular emphasis of this paper is on the lived life of inhabitants--examining routine activities that go into the material and social construction of place as well as how place influences social interactions, livelihoods and aspirations.

The Politics of Urban Mega-projects in India

Mega infrastructure projects such as industrial parks and special economic zones are increasingly seen as a means to jump-start urban economies in India. This paper contributes to understanding the politics of urban mega-projects by examining the quality of local economic linkages of an information technology park, located in what is popularly referred to as the "IT corridor" in Chennai. Based on a survey of employees in software firms and support services for IT parks along the corridor, the paper maps patterns of employment creation, new consumption and mobility patterns of those employed in the IT parks and implications for the quality of urban development.

Greenfield Development as Tabula Rasa

Greenfield urban development can be seen as an enduring idiom of politics in India, with state initiative from precolonial times to the present day responsible for establishing iconic capital cities such as Jaipur, Kolkata, or Chandigarh. However, a renewed interest in building new cities, variously labelled "smart," "green" or "integrated," is now accompanied by an increasing tendency to instrumentalise the urban in pursuit of economic growth and a competitive drive to attract global financial flows. Situated at the intersection of several recent literatures from speculative urbanism to theorisations of rescaling and bypass, the papers in this special issue foreground the struggles over land that animate debates about these greenfield sites while looking beyond these concerns to question the urban futures they presage. Synthesising the insights from these papers, this essay flags critical issues for the politics of urban development and sketches pathways for future research.

Reading into the Politics of Land

The Sriperumbudur-Oragadam region on the south-western periphery of Chennai metropolis is projected as a growth centre and favoured destination for real estate investment. The Tamil Nadu government's intervention to develop the region into a global manufacturing hub accelerated the transformation of agricultural land for urban real estate. The paper examines the micropolitics of land transformation with a specific focus on the role of private developers. It discusses three findings from qualitative research conducted in 13 villages in the region. First, developers are not a unified category. Second, in a nuanced reading of the material politics of land, it suggests that the actors' embeddedness in local political relations influences their role. Third, it exposes the complex responses of landowners to land acquisition and the market process. Through a comprehensive analysis of the practices of different categories of developers and landowners it adds to the speculative urbanism theory. Finally, it argues for a grounded reading of the transformation and the role of various actors in the process.

Making of Amaravati

This paper examines Amaravati, the proposed greenfield capital of the bifurcated Andhra Pradesh state, against the backdrop of the rise of urban mega-projects across Asia, and the tendencies towards land speculation they have unleashed in Indian cities. It offers a critique of the land pooling mechanisms as they have played out on the ground in the affected villages. It argues that voluntary land pooling on such a large scale has been made possible through a coordinated use of coercive tactics and legal measures, including the land ordinance of the Government of India, which was re-promulgated three times and provided a credible fallback in the AP government's dealings with farmers. Land pooling also facilitated a regime of co-option with absentee landowners aligning, on caste lines, with the ruling party.

Dholera

A growing rentier economy is driving urbanisation infrastructure projects in India without distributive linkages with industrialisation. This rentier economy brings within its purview various combinations of policy such as speculative land markets, real estate and other urban infrastructure investments by global and domestic investors, private consultants and developers, interests within the state at various levels, and landowners willing and able to benefit from rentiering. It hinges crucially on ownership of land, and hence on deeply unequal geographies of rent. There is a need to distinguish rent-driven urbanisation infrastructure projects from industrialisation and concomitant job-creation. The peasantry emerges as absolute surplus population irrelevant to this geography of rent, except as an obstacle to growth.

Scaling Up, Scaling Down

Focusing on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, an attempt is made here to understand how central and regional governments are rescaling and restructuring power and governmental authority in terms of the governance and planning arrangements of mega-projects. Mega-projects are emerging as spaces of exception in economic as well as governance terms with far greater involvement of private actors, and constant negotiation of the central and state governments.

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