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"Cows, Cars and Cycle-Rickshaws: The Politics of Nature on the Streets of Delhi"

January 25, 2008

A talk by Amita Baviskar, Associate Professor at the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University.

As an embodied public sphere, city streets are sites for multiple exchanges between differently located people and things. This talk focuses on cows, cars and cycle-rickshaws as they navigate Delhi's roads, and on the people who own, use and seek to control them. All three have been the subject of strenuous efforts at regulation by courts, citizens' groups and traders' associations. Professor Bavkiskar interprets these conflicts as instances of bourgeois environmentalism, the (mainly) middle-class pursuit of urban order, hygiene and safety, and ecological conservation. She argues that collective action in the "public interest" by "citizens" concerned about congestion and the collapse of civic infrastructure constitutes a public that excludes the city's poorer sections. The talk examines state attempts to regulate the traffic between cars, cows and rickshaws, and concludes by arguing that complex interdependencies avert imminent collision and enable "the republic of the street"" to survive.

From the Program on the Global Environment.