Understanding Ethnic Identities in Urban Spaces in India

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Shreya URVASHI, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India
The ethnic identity of an individual is a chief characteristic in determining her or his belongingness to parts of urban space in a society. Various studies show how Indians have internalised this identity for themselves as well as for others, and have experienced some sort of discrimination and/or advantage based on their ethnic group and identity; in explicit forms like document verification and obtaining a visa, or in much more implicit forms like rented accommodation or in entrance in gated communities. Moreover, this identity for some people further pushes them into what is know as a ghetto condition, coming out of which is an immense task not only due to economic reasons, but due to the culmination of social and cultural reasons piled up on the economic factor.

Although theorization on such lines have been done primarily in America and Europe, the same is very relevant in the Indian context as well. The concept of ghettos, particularly, is widely prevalent in India. What however makes it different from the western discourse is the presence of class as well as caste dynamics in the formation and sustanence of ghettos in urban areas in India. A comparison of racism and casteism has always been of interest to scholars and thus, not surprisingly, a feature directly related to this phenomenon finds its existence in India with the prevalence of Dalit ghettos. What makes the current discourse even more interesting is that living in ghettos in India is not restricted to the lower castes only. Such urban spaces which are basically formed as a result of unequal attitude of the larger society also cater to religious and regional minorities as well. Another entrant into the concept of such ghettos includes the ones formed due to coming of various refugees.