Complicating Connectivity: Gendered Mobilities in an Urban Slum

TitleComplicating Connectivity: Gendered Mobilities in an Urban Slum
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Tacchi, J., and T. Chandola
Affiliation (1st Author)RMIT University
Section or WGGender and Communication Section
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeGENW4b
Slot Code (Keyword)GENW4b
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitleGender, Identity and Culture
Submission ID6992

In this paper we challenge the idea that connectivity through communication technologies such as mobile phones has standard or common attributes or outcomes. We complicate notions of connectivity by drawing on ten years of ethnographic research in a slum cluster in Delhi.  We illustrate different types of mobilities revealed through close examination of the telephone practices of three women.The combined factors of the New Economic Policy (1991) and the subsequent New Telecom Policies (1994, 1997) and Broadband Policy (2004) unleashed an unprecedented growth of the telecommunications sector in India. The sector was identified as important in the socio-economic development of the nation. While we discuss the lives of these three women through a ‘technological’ lens we take care not to ‘render technical’ the complexity of the social, cultural and political processes within which they are embedded. We aim to complicate notions of connectivity by developing the idea of ‘meaningful mobilities’.  Our research shows that technologies of connectedness are active agents in evolving gendered relationships, and these relationships must be understood within their culturally embedded everyday uses and settings (Tacchi, et al. 2012:2). The slum in which our research is located is a highly gendered space. The social, cultural and spatial mobilities of women are highly restricted and scrutinized. Access to communication technologies and the implications of mobility (social, spatial, emotional) demand a series of negotiations that are played out differently depending on the specific social positioning, life stage and economic and moral currency of each of the women we discuss. The very practice and consequences of connectedness for each of these women, although they might superficially be grouped together as slum dwellers, on close inspection is significantly different, as are the network that they engage with.

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