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Going Solo Delhi Workshop 2015

The workshop Going Solo: Gender and Representation in urban India will place on October 4-6, 2015 in Delhi at the Goethe Institute/ Max Mueller Bhavan.

3 Kasturba Gandhi Marg
New Delhi-110001, India

Concept Note

As cultural contact zones, cities throughout Asia are shaping and being shaped by global, regional and national flows that are implicated in the unravelling of ‘traditional’ social contracts. New forms of economic production, migration, and a growing leisure and consumer society, for example, are said to erode institutions such as ‘the family’. Yet the emerging subjectivities from within this urban flux are precarious, marked by asymmetrical power relations reflecting moral panics centred on discourses of ‘westernisation’ and associated perceptions of transgressions of normative gendered comportment.

The ‘single’ woman is one such subjectivity that has come to signify cultural change, demanding recognition and access to the city, as well as re-versioning what concepts such as ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’ mean. Singleness can stem from various acts of stepping outside the ‘family’, including delaying marriage, choosing never to marry, divorce, being widowed, being single in the city when moving across it at particular times of day or night, being unrecognised by the state because of sexual preference, or being alone in her aspirations and desires. This idea of singleness is increasingly visible within the media landscape that acts not only as a mirror but as a catalyst for its emergence.

This international workshop seeks to interrogate this contested notion of singleness in the city, focusing on Delhi and Shanghai. Through presentations, panel discussions, performance and film screenings, it will highlight that gendered imaginaries of emancipation are contested in the light of a variety of cultural practices that impact the multiple life-worlds of women and cities that invite, produce and restrict singleness. Speakers from a range of disciplinary backgrounds (geography, architecture, anthropology, cultural studies and sociology) will explore ways in which women navigate and dwell in the city, finding and affirming a space of their own. Notions of class, autonomy, public/private, leisure, mobility, safety and protest will be explored, and how this agency is (re)presented in and through a range of media-scapes and audio-visual domains including film, poster art, television and literature.

The workshop is part of the HERA project ‘SINGLE’ (, and organised in conjunction with the Max Mueller Bhavan. Findings from the HERA project will be presented as well as ongoing collaboration with artists and academic colleagues from Shanghai/ Hong Kong.

Programme flyer


About the speakers

Public Evening Events

Lecture by Sanjay Srivastava: From the Five Year Plan Hero to Mr. Modi’s Masculinity

On July 1, 2015 Prof. Sanjay Srivastava (JNU, New Delhi) will give a lecture on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's representation of masculinity. Prof. Susan Brownell (University of Missouri-St. Louis) wíll chair the subsequent discussion. The lecture takes place at 6 pm at the Karl Jaspers Centre in room 212.

In his lecture titled "From the Five Year Plan Hero to Mr. Modi's Masculinity: Notes on Modernity, Consumer Cultures and 'Tradition' in India", Srivastava analyses male stereotypes which were used to stage Modi during his election campaign in 2014. Srivastava stresses that the media discourse - both in independent journalism and advertisements - articulated a gendered focus on a significant aspect of Narendra Modi’s public representation relating to his 'forceful' masculinity. Srivastava draws multiple conclusions from placing Modi’s public representation in the broader historical context of India’s traditionally patriarchal culture.

Modi's election campaign, as Prof. Srivastava argues, portrayed the Indian Prime Minister as the prototypical male leader: efficient, dynamic, potent, and capable of removing all policy-roadblocks through sheer force and personality. Srivastava makes the point that this 'Modi-masculinity' reformulates older versions of Indian masculinist discourse in a time of consumerist modernity. Srivastava suggests that ‘Modi-masculinity’ stands at the juncture of new consumerist aspirations, the politics of ‘Indian traditions’ and gender, and the re-fashioning of masculine identities. It seeks to localise the notion of 'neo-liberalism' through exploring its gendered dimensions and positing three specific analytical contexts, viz., 'post-nationalism', 'moral consumption' and 'surplus consumption'.

Information on the speaker and the discussant:

Sanjay Srivastava is Professor of Sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University. His publications include Constructing Postcolonial India. National Character and the Doon School (1998), Asia. Cultural Politics in the Global Age' (2001, co-author), Sexual Sites, Seminal Attitudes. Sexualities, Masculinities and Culture in South Asia(2004, contributing editor), Passionate Modernity. Sexuality, Class and Consumption in India (2007), and Sexuality Studies (2013, contributing editor). Most recently, he has published Entangled Urbanism. Slum, Gated Community and Shopping Mall in Delhi and Gurgaon (OUP, 2015). He is co-editor of the journal Contributions to Indian Sociology. 

Susan Brownell is an internationally recognized expert on Chinese sports.  She has done fieldwork in China, primarily in Beijing.  Her research interests are sports and body culture.  In 2007-08 she was a Fulbright Senior Researcher at the Beijing Sport University, doing research on the Beijing Olympic Games.  She is the author of “Training the Body for China: Sports in the Moral Order of the People's Republic”(University of Chicago Press, 1995) and the co-editor, with Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, of “Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities: A Reader”(University of California Press, 2002). Susan Brownell is also the editor of “The 1904 Anthropology Days and Olympic Games: Race, Sport, and American Imperialism” (University of Nebraska Press, 2008).


The lecture "From the Five Year Plan Hero to Mr. Modi's Masculinity: Notes on Modernity, Consumer Cultures and 'Tradition' in India" is organised by the Cluster's Research Area B "Public Spheres" and the HERA SINGLE project, which investigates the living conditions of single women in the context of neo-liberal urbanisation in India and China.


Shanghai Workshop: Precariously Yours

The HERA SINGLE team at the Fei Contemporary Art Centre in Shanghai where the art exhibition took place From left to right: Xiaofei LI, Yiu Fai CHOW, Laila Abu-Er-Rub, Lucie Bernroider, Maddalena Chiellini, Christiane Brosius, Melissa Butcher, Jeroen de Kloet, Penn IP, Chenying PI.
Lise YUEN’s Artwork: Make a wish.


December 4-6, 2014: The workshop Precariously Yours: Gender, Class, and Urbanity in Contemporary Shanghai took place in Shanghai and culminated in the opening of an exhibition at the Fei Contemporary Art Centre for which three artists have created works solely for this purpose. Additional funding has been generated through the kind support from the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

For more details see: Programme

SINGLE meets with Arunava Dasgupta 2014

June 3, 2014: SINGLE met with Arunava Dasgupta Professor for Urban Design at the School of Planning and Architecture (SAP), Dehli. He works on citizen design strategies, restructuring of metro cities and urbanization in North India. He talked to Single Project members about issues of safety in and identified ‘problem areas’ in Delhi. He further highlighted the importance of community networks and transport facilities for single women. Possibilities for collaborations between Single project members and the School of Architecture and Planning in Delhi were also discussed. As a concequence of this initial meeting an MoU was signed in February 2015. Lucie Bernroider is affiliated with the SPA during her fieldwork in Delhi.

SINGLE meets with Saraswati Raju 2014

Prof. Saraswati Raju

June 16, 2014: SINGLE met with Prof. Saraswati Raju, Professor for Social Geography at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has worked extensively on gender and space in South Asia. At the meeting with Single project members she elaborated on the entanglement of employment, space and gender and the role of location for gendered practices. Prof. Raju also shared her advice on research methods and research design and recommended relevant reading for each research project.

Film Series "Home in the City"

During May 5, 2014 and July 15, 2014 SINGLE cooperated with the Forum Urban Spaces on a seminar film series titled ‘Home in the City’ which screened selected documentary film segments framed by an introduction by filmmakers and scholars. Covering a range of actors and themes concerning women’s spatial experiences in Delhi it presented attendees with different perspectives on urban spaces and offered them the opportunity for further discussion.

For more detail see: Programme.

SINGLE meets with Prof. Aparna Rayaprol

Prof. Aparna Rayaprol

May 5-7, 2014: Prof. Aparna Rayaprol, Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Hyderabad who works on Indian feminism, remigration and Diaspora. Prof. Rayaprol met with Single project members to discuss the different waves of feminism in India and shared her concerns about the current gender politics. She also elaborated on the construction of masculinity in the city as well as feminization of public space and the role of remigration in the contemporary urban landscapes of Indian cities especially in relation to the lives of single women.

HRA Workshop Heidelberg 2014

The HERA SINGLE Team & the HRA (Heidelberg Research Architecture) during the HRA Workshop. From the back right to the front: Penn Ip, Chenying Pi, Lucie Bernroider, MaddalenaChiellini, Christiane Brosius, Melissa Butcher, Jeroen de Kloet, Nina Nessel, CHOW Yiu Fai, Laila Abu-Er-Rub, Eric Decker.
Practising video annotation during the HRA Workshop. From left to right: Prof. Jeroen de Kloet, Prof. Christiane Brosius, Dr. Melissa Butcher, MaddalenaChiellini, Lucie Bernroider, Chenying Pi
Solving problems. From left to right: Eric Decker (HRA), Prof. Jeroen de Kloet

April 14-16, 2014: The HRA workshop took place at the Karl Jaspers Centre in Heidelberg. Coordinated by Prof. Christiane Brosius, the workshop trained the SINGLE members in using the metadata framework Tamboti, in Annotating Images and videos, and in using multimedia libraries. During these three days every team member was provided with the technical means to access shared data and to upload, annotate, and share video, image, and textual materials. This provides the base in order to advance our level of collaborative research based on digital and digitised data.


For more details see: Programme

Kick-off Workshop Heidelberg 2013

The HERA SINGLE Team & the HRA (Heidelberg Research Architecture) during the Kick-Off Workshop. From left to right: Matthias Arnold (HRA), Penn Ip, Laila Abu-Er-Rub, Lucie Bernroider, Anna Vinogradova, Nina Nessel, Eric Decker (HRA), PI Chenying, Christiane Brosius, Maddalena Chiellini, Jeroen de Kloet, Melissa Butcher, Tony Buchwald, CHOW Yiu Fai.
From left to right: Prof. Christiane Brosius, Prof. Jeroen de Kloet, Dr.Yiu Fai CHOW

December 5 - 7, 2013: The Kick-Off workshop took place at the Karl Jaspers Centre in Heidelberg including all members of the research consortium as well as Prof. Ulrike Gerhard (Human Geography/ Heidelberg University) and Dr. Marie Sander (Forum Urban Spaces/ Heidelberg University). During the workshop all individual projects were presented, common key terms were defined, publication strategies and possible cooperation with individuals and institutions were discussed. Moreover, the dates for the next workshops were scheduled, the content of upcoming workshop in Shanghai was outlined and possibilities for joint fieldwork were selected.