Intentional Informality in Gendered Spaces on the Mumbai Local Suburban Railway System
thesisposted on 28.10.2017, 00:00 by Lauren Dean
This thesis explores how women in Mumbai constitute their own spaces within the city’s public transit system and how gender segregated infrastructure creates opportunities for women who rely on informal urban spaces to access formal and informal work. The gender segregated female-only compartment on the Mumbai suburban railway system has been crucial to expanding women’s mobility in the city and female passengers reconstitute the ladies’ car as not only a piece of mobile infrastructure, but also as an extension of the domestic sphere and as a space of labor for women who participate in the informal economy. How do women in Mumbai repurpose public spaces to address the city’s infrastructural shortcomings and how does policy making and regulation work against women’s mobility? This paper looks to examine this question through participant observation and literature review. Many of the opportunities that the local trains present to very poor women exist only because Mumbai’s transportation infrastructure is overcrowded and unevenly managed. These critical spaces face two dominant threats to their continued existence; the uneven protections afforded to informal workers through municipal policymaking, and new infrastructure projects that look to modernize and privatize transportation infrastructure. Women’s intentional and collective efforts to build their own informal infrastructures within the space of the ladies compartment demonstrate how insurgent planning works to create community-led urban spaces that are more useful and inclusive of marginalized communities.