ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Unfriendly Bodies, Hostile Cities

Following sexual assaults on women in public spaces in cities, discussions tend to frame the issue in terms of women’s safety in the streets rather than their right to access public space. The overarching narrative appears to be that cities are violent spaces that women are better off not accessing at all. This paper attempts to make a case for women and others accessing a city which is perceived as hostile, and to do so without being censured. It argues that loitering offers the possibility of rewriting the city as a more inclusive, diverse and pleasurable one.

Versions of this paper were presented at the L B Kenny Endowment Lecture at the Asiatic Society, Mumbai, March 2012; Subaltern Urbanism, Columbia University, Mumbai, January 2013; “Inequality, Mobility and Sociality in Contemporary India”, Yale University, the US, April 2013; Wellesley College, the US, April 2013; and Brandeis University, the US, May 2013. The author would like to thank the participants at all of these for their engaged and thoughtful comments. Thanks especially to Abhay Sardesai, Amit S Rai, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade who commented on this paper at various stages.

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