Accepted paper:

Inside out: the public times and spaces of caste and community in a smaller Indian city


Ian M. Cook (Central European University / Open Education)

Paper short abstract:

Mangaluru's occasionally violent inter-communal relations, often contradicted by the rhythms of everyday urban life, are analysed through changing conceptions of what is acceptable behaviour in the city's public times and spaces.

Paper long abstract:

Mangaluru, a smaller city on the south-west Indian coast, has gained domestic notoriety in recent years for its particularly active far-right Hindu-nationalist groups and self styled "moral policemen". These groups regularly create media frenzies when they attack cross-community couples, storm parties where they suspect young Muslim men to be socialising with Hindu women and attack church congregations. However, during the eighteen months I spent in the city, this (often external) discourse of communal strife was undercut by everyday rhythms of co-operation, friendship and love. Moreover, whilst a cursory glance at the topography of the institutions in the city shows numerous caste and community formations - from hotels to colleges - the practices of Mangaloreans often defy mono-communal logics (Muslim parents send they children to Christian schools, Hindus choose to marry in Muslim owned community halls). In this paper, after mapping some of the ways in which caste/community is weaved into the urban fabric, I argue that the increase in vigilantism - whilst in part explained through the growth of the Hindutva political project, (global) anti-Muslim sentiments and sharpening class divisions - is primarily a struggle over the times and spaces of public city life; around what is and is not acceptable behaviour in the street; about the clashing rhythmic performance of urbanities in a rapidly changing smaller city

panel Urba005
Cities of the forking paths: intercommunal (dis)harmony and the rhythms of everyday life