New Claims to the City: Women's Interventions in the Politics of Urban Infrastructure in Pakistan

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 12:30
Oral Presentation
Amen JAFFER, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan
This paper draws from my research on community networks and urban culture in Lahore, Pakistan that are mobilized for political purposes by economically and socially underprivileged groups in the city. Based on interviews and ethnographic fieldwork in the Mozang locality, this research has revealed that one of the key pillars of politics for such groups is the fixing and upgrading of urban infrastructure, particularly gas, water, and electricity supply lines and sewerage systems. Importantly, elderly women have played a key role in political mobilizing around infrastructure issues and demanding state delivery of these services. A few have risen to leadership positions in their communities by successfully mobilizing the community to address infrastructure issues and influence the working of the state. These women have forged expanding networks in their neighborhoods based on existing neighborhood ties but also linking other communities in the locality. They have also established connections with local political leaders and acquired extensive knowledge and experience of the workings of state institutions. Furthermore, these mobilizations reveal the political potential of particular forms of social organization and specific cultural styles of employing affect, bodily gestures and speech for successful interventions in urban politics. Importantly, the public and political activities of these women also challenge patriarchal gender dynamics by redefining gender relations and offering possibilities for women to claim their city. My proposed paper will analyze the findings of this research to understand how women’s participation in the politics of infrastructure has shaped the dynamics of urban citizenship and gender relations in urban neighborhoods. I will particularly demonstrate the importance of social and cultural capital for these women to establish a right to their city and intervene in its politics.