Accepted paper:

Biking and the City: roads, mobile subjectivities, and a women-only motorcycle club in urban India

Author:

Maddalena Chiellini (Birkbeck, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

The paper looks at how members of a women-only motorbike club in Delhi use city space and riding for self-expression, activism, and personal growth. Novel mobile subjectivities emerge that engage with Delhi road-scapes as something more than just dangerous spaces for women.

Paper long abstract:

The paper investigates the experiences of the members of an all-women motorcycle club in Delhi, the Bikerni. Since the tragic rape and homicide of a young woman in December 2012, Delhi has gained the infamous reputation of being India's rape capital, and a dangerous place for women to navigate on their own. The media, as well as the Indian and international narrative about the city, depict a reality where threat of harassment and physical violence are at the core of the mobility experience for women. Drawing from feminist geography and mobility theory, the paper relates to the panel's themes by exploring how, for the members of the Bikerni, the road can be an avenue for self-expression and critical engagement with models of womanhood. On the road, novel and mobile subjectivities emerge drawing from feminist ideologies and notions of empowerment that find form through activism, professional choices that centre on biking, and emotional and affective investment in one's vehicle. Additionally, gendered declinations of the 'biker' identity connect the members of the club to a broader, transnational community with its own rules and ideologies to which the women in this study allegedly adhere, and that both reinforce and shape those very same subjectivities. Roads and city space are thus not exclusively a dangerous territory for women to navigate, embedded as they are in broader socio-cultural process such as patriarchal modes of relations, but also an origin point for the development of novel subjectivities that actively reproduce and reconstruct conceptions of womanhood.

panel P106
Auto-anthropocenes: alternative uses of roads and vehicles