Gender Studies Seminar: Public spaces with Atreyee Sen
The Gender Studies Seminar is an open seminar series hosted by the Department of Gender Studies. The theme for 2023 is Gendered and sexualized spaces. Associate professor Atreyee Sen from the Department of anthropology at Copenhagen University, will during this seminar focus her presentation on urban spaces.
The Gender Studies Seminar Series invite researchers to share their insights on key issues for gendered and sexualized lives, and to engage in critical discussions about the development of gender studies as an interdisciplinary and intersectional research field. During the spring and fall semester 2023, we focus our attention on critical contributions and interventions into gendered and sexualized spaces, from the domestic to the geopolitical.
Urban spaces with Atreyee Sen
Title: No city for lovers’: Urban poverty, public romance and violent moral policing of lower-class female youth in Mumbai
This presentation will explore the violent moral policing and aggressive spatial marginalisation of lower-class, young lovers in Mumbai. I will interrogate contemporary nationalist discourses propagating appropriate, honourable conduct for women in modern India, and analyse the percolation of these forms of gendered moral surveillance into local urban politics.
Young girls, who gain a small degree of economic freedom through low-income employment in Mumbai, are often keen to resist arranged marriages, and choose their romantic partners. However, since upper-class ‘safe’ public spaces (such as coffee shops, movie halls, shopping plazas) are not available to poor women, these young girls use open parks, street benches, public beaches and commuter bridges to kiss, cuddle and converse with their lovers. I show how orthodox lower-class communities, conservative nationalist groups, and local policemen concerned with ‘public pornography’, coordinate physical attacks and public shaming to punish such deviant youth. I argue that this form of virtue policing of poor girls is not just directed towards informally governing the morality of young women. It is also intimately related to invisibilising and edging out poor, mobile girls from public spaces, when they boldly display their right to love, labour and occupy public spaces in the commercial city.