Dissertation Abstracts

Positionality, Spatiality and Identity: An Urban Study of Muslim Community in Delhi

Author: Jamil, Ghazala , ghazalajamil@gmail.com
Department: Department of Social Work
University: University of Delhi, India
Supervisor: Prof Manoj Kumar Jha
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Muslims , Delhi , Segregation , Identity
Areas of Research: Regional and Urban Development , Political Sociology , Communication, Knowledge and Culture


Most literature on Indian Muslims reifies Muslim condition so that the meaning of communal prejudice and discrimination is either to be found within Hindu-Muslim relationship or worse, in some alleged internal qualities of the faith Islam. In doing so, the intense academic interest regarding Muslims suppresses inquiries of the materialist logic of prejudice and segregation. This study charts out the changes taking place in Muslim neighbourhoods in Delhi through an ethnographic exploration of everyday life in the backdrop of rapid urbanisation and forces of capitalist globalisation. The study findings assert that the exclusion of Muslims spatially and socially is a complex process containing contradictory elements that have reduced Indian Muslims to being ‘normative’ non-citizens and homo sacri whose legal status is not an equal claim to citizenship. It is also asserted that while there is no attempt at integration of Muslims socially and spatially, from within the structures of Urban Governance, it would be a fallacy to say that the state is absent from within these segregated enclaves. Further, the enquiry finds that different classes within Muslims are treated differentially in the discriminatory process. The resultant spatial ‘diversity’ and differentiation this gives rise to among the Muslim neighbourhoods creates an illusion of ‘choice’ but in reality, the flexibility of the confining boundaries only serve to make them stronger and shatter-proof. The disciplinary state, neoliberal processes of globalisation and the discursive practices such as news media, cinema, social science research, combine together to produce a hegemonic effect in which stereotyped representations are continually employed uncritically and erroneously to prevent genuine attempts at developing specific and nuanced understanding of the situation of Urban Muslims in India. Finally, the study enumerates the way in which residents of these segregated enclaves are finding ways to build hope in their lives and resist the systems of domination. The thesis closes with a problématique- some questions and formulations that may revitalise a vision of the ideal Delhi.