Aparna Parikh, Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University
The growth of the neoliberal service sector in Mumbai, India, has transformed historically urban peripheries of Malad and Powai into hubs for call centers and symbols of modern Mumbai. In these areas, fisher folk, marginalized service providers, and women working night shifts in call centers play a significant role in the production and maintenance of neoliberal urbanism, yet paradoxically face exclusions from these very spaces. This research analyzes Mumbai’s neoliberal transformation through experiences this “fabric” of globalization through their pivotal role in transnational call center development.
Based on qualitative field-based research and document analysis, I focus on fisher folk to illustrate land contestations and disruptions in community-level sustainable resource management for development. Marginalized service providers form another facet of this fabric, who face challenges accessing urban areas even as they securitize and maintain neoliberal spaces. Their experiences showcase continuities and divergences across the low-paid formal sector and informal sector. The third facet of this research is constituted by women who work in call centers, and whose night-time navigation of urban areas is circumscribed by patriarchal notions of respectability.
I analyze how these groups service the economy, even as they internalize and negotiate marginalizing discourses while navigating urban areas around call centers. I illuminate contradictions in Mumbai’s development, its resulting inequalities, and their multifaceted manifestations. The daily navigations of these groups in these contradictory spaces sheds light, I argue, on processes of neoliberal urbanization in other parts of the world, and their ubiquitous entanglement with existing social divisions and political contestations.