Sunday, 24 July 2016

Experiencing Racial Profiling

Racial profiling has always existed. But it has become common these days. In the name of national security, agencies in every country are working on racial stereotypes - colour, names, attire, appearance etc. - and targeting people, whether is the US, UK, Spain, Netherlands or India. The views of American presidential candidate, Donald Trump about Mexicans and Muslims are well known. Most cases of racial profiling in western countries relate of people of colour who are often stereotyped to be involved in more crimes. In the last decade terrorism and racial profiling for anti terrorist activities have become prominent.

Most of my colleagues who work in Human Geography are very well aware of the issue, research it or have faced profiling themselves. In the past I often discussed this issue with friends and colleagues. Most of my arguments were based on reading academic and popular media (mostly Guardian) articles. But recently I went through my own experience of racial profiling. I thought it would be useful to recount the experience for others.
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I visited Wroclaw, Poland recently. Since, I was travelling within Schengen region, I was not worried about visa and immigration process. I have travelled within the region a few times in the last 5 months and never needed to go through visa checks etc. This time was different. When I was in the queue to board the plane at the airport in the Netherlands, the ground staff checked my visa. I found this strange but since they were checking everyone's ID and my passport was Indian looking at the visa made sense.

In the flight I was the only person of colour. But that is not unusual. When I arrived in Wroclaw, I headed to the exit to meet my friends. Since the flight was within Schengen region, there was no boarder control. People from my plane were exiting the airport freely. As I reached the gates, the other passengers were walking out. I was stopped by two police officers. They did not stop anyone else, just me. Did they naturally assume that every other person was Polish/European and since I was a person of colour, I was from another country? I could have been a Polish citizen or a citizen of another European country. Alternatively, some other passengers could have been citizens of non European countries. The officers had a hand held device. They asked for my passport and visa and checked them before letting me go. I didn't think much about it. As an Indian citizen, I am used to going through boarder control in every country I visit.

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I spent the next 3 days walking around Wroclaw. I noticed the city had very few people of colour. The city centre was full of tourists. Mostly Polish, Germans, Spanish and French. Although my friends told me that they had some Indian work colleagues, I didn't see many Indians on the streets. On the fourth day I went to watch a film and then to the bus station to get a ticket for my next day's travel. Wroclaw train station in next to the bus station. So I went to the train station to grab a bite. I chose KFC. Now, if you are in Poland and you ignore all the good food around and go to KFC, you must be punished. And I was punished.

Wroclaw train station 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Defining ‘access’ as the nexus of ‘energy access for all’ in the global South: RGS session, abstracts and speakers

RGS-IBG Annual Conference, London, 30 August – 2 September 2016



Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)

Session Convenors:  Ankit Kumar (Eindhoven University of Technology), Britta Turner (Durham University) and Raihana Ferdous (Durham University)


Globally some 1.2 billion people are known to lack access to electricity and a further 2.7 billion people continue to rely on biomass as their sole energy source for cooking. Achieving universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030 has been a focus of the UN’s sustainable energy (SE4ALL) campaign and is now one of the agreed sustainable development goals (SDGs) yet there remains remarkably little consensus on what constitutes energy access, how best to achieve these targets or to track their progress. Often viewed as simply a technical and logistical process of boosting the number of connections and ‘plugging’ consumers into a grid infrastructure there remains a pressing need to problematise energy ‘access’ and to trace some of the local social, cultural, political and economic dynamics that are critical in defining what energy access means and how it is experienced in the global South.  


We invite submissions of both theoretical and empirically-focused papers concerned with the configuration of the energy access agenda in the global South. Areas of potential interest for contributions to this session might include but are not limited to:
  • What constitutes energy access and how much energy is enough? 
  • What forms does energy access take and who decides what counts?
  • Kinds of connections and disconnections 
  • Formal and informal routes to energy access
  • How is access endured and experienced?


Abstracts


Energy justice for the urban poor 


Maria Lobo (Society for the promotion of Area Resource Centres, India) 
Vincent Moller (Society for the promotion of Area Resource Centres, India) 
Monali Waghmare (Society for the promotion of Area Resource Centres, India) 

Energy poverty is often considered as a rural problem but globally 220 million people are living in cities without access to electricity in spite of grid being so close. One of the main reasons is the exclusionary practice of the city, where often formal institutions don’t provide electricity to the poor because they live in informality and lack a formal address. 433 million slum dwellers are dependent on polluting fuels like wood, dung or kerosene which constitute major health threats to them. Focusing only on the number of people without access to electricity services also misses out the fact that energy poverty goes beyond that. Increasing electricity tariffs are a growing burden for the urban poor. 

Between 2014 and 2015 SPARC conducted a household survey in order to get a clearer and fact based picture on the energy consumption patterns, issues related to access of energy, needs and demands, as well as challenges of the urban poor. The survey has covered more than 240 households in Mumbai, Bangalore and five medium sized cities in India and made use of quantitative and qualitative methods. The purpose was to understand which factors influence the levels of access to energy for the urban poor, but also examined how electricity tariffs, energy subsidies and government programs are currently designed in India and how they would have to be conceptualized in a pro-poor way if we want to achieve access to modern energy for all. 

Monday, 14 March 2016

Book Review: The Biopolitics of Gender by Jemima Repo

In The Biopolitics of Gender, Jemima Repo traces a genealogy of ‘gender’, arguing that it is not an inherently feminist term, but rather emerged historically from the study of intersex and transgender people in the fields of sexology and psychology in the 1950s and 1960s. Positioning gender as a historically located biopolitical apparatus, Repo therefore questions its utility for contemporary feminist theory and politics.

Here's my review of the book on LSE Review of Books


Monday, 1 February 2016

CfP RGS 2016: Defining ‘access’ as the nexus of ‘energy access for all’ in the global South

Call For Papers: RGS-IBG Annual Conference, London, 30 August – 2 September 2016

Defining ‘access’ as the nexus of ‘energy access for all’ in the global South

Session Convenors:  Ankit Kumar (Eindhoven University of Technology), Britta Turner (Durham University) and Raihana Ferdous (Durham University)


Globally some 1.2 billion people are known to lack access to electricity and a further 2.7 billion people continue to rely on biomass as their sole energy source for cooking. Achieving universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030 has been a focus of the UN’s sustainable energy (SE4ALL) campaign and is now one of the agreed sustainable development goals (SDGs) yet there remains remarkably little consensus on what constitutes energy access, how best to achieve these targets or to track their progress. Often viewed as simply a technical and logistical process of boosting the number of connections and ‘plugging’ consumers into a grid infrastructure there remains a pressing need to problematize energy ‘access’ and to trace some of the local social, cultural, political and economic dynamics that are critical in defining what energy access means and how it is experienced in the global South.  

We invite submissions of both theoretical and empirically-focused papers concerned with the configuration of the energy access agenda in the global South. Areas of potential interest for contributions to this session might include but are not limited to:
  • What constitutes energy access and how much energy is enough? 
  • What forms does energy access take and who decides what counts?
  • Kinds of connections and disconnections 
  • Formal and informal routes to energy access
  • How is access endured and experienced?


Abstracts of 250 words may be emailed to Ankit Kumar (ankitkuma@gmail.com), Britta Turner (britta.turner@durham.ac.uk) or Raihana Ferdous (raihana.ferdous@durham.ac.uk) by 15 February 2016. We will inform the selected session participants by 17 February 2016.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Sassoon Docks, Mumbai: photo essay of a unique urban experience

20/10/2015 Mumbai/Bombay

They say, this city never sleeps. But have you ever tried to find a taxi at 5.30am on a Saturday? It takes exactly 10 min. I guess it does sleep, for 10 min, every Saturday morning.

On this particular Saturday morning, I (with Colin McFarlane) was headed for a unique urban experience, a fishing dock on the southern edge of Mumbai. I hadn't heard to the docks before but when Colin McFarlane recommends a place in Mumbai, you go. So we woke up early and woke Mumbai from its 10 min sleep, hitched a taxi and headed for the docks.

 


the city that never sleeps

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

What BJP needs to accept from its Bihar defeat

A day after their massive loss in Bihar elections, the top 12 BJP leaders met in New Delhi to introspection. A key reason they think is that they made wrong assumptions about the Grand Alliance or the Mahagathbandhan consisting of Nitish Kumar's Janta Dal United (JDU), Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtrya Janta Dal (RJD) and the Congress. They say their win in Bihar in the last year's national elections was because the 'opposition' (the parties in the Grand Alliance) was divided. They also feel that the Beef statements, Pakistan issue and RSS's Mohan Bhagwat's statement on reservations had nothing to do with their defeat.

I think there are two key lessons for the BJP from the Bihar elections which they need to think carefully about:


Competitive Hoarding: BJP vs JDU (Congress stays in the background)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Cultures of Lights

Kumar, Ankit. 2015. Cultures of light. Geoforum65, 59-68

This paper is part of a larger project, looking at electricity access in rural India. For the project, a nine months long ethnographic research was carried out in five villages in Bihar, an eastern state of India. It involved looking at various sources of light – grid electricity, solar lanterns, biomass micro-grids and kerosene oil. The paper tries to understand, and explain, the cultural notions that dictate peoples’ specific lighting practices and lighting practices that propagate particular cultural notions. The paper argues that, through the mediation of materiality, light cultures (cultivates and propagates) culture and culture cultures light. It does this by engaging with three key ideas. First, it argues that light has a critical role in establishing and reinforcing honour. Following this, it examines light’s role in hospitality. Lastly, it connects light to the religious beliefs among Hindus, and looks at how culture affects the materiality of light. The paper approaches what light does and what it means as emerging from a material-culture assemblage, which embodies the external and the internal, the political and the productive, the corporal and the conceptual, the material, moral, and the sensible. From this, light emerges with dual – material and non-material – properties, as it interacts with culture.

Link to published article: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016718515001840

Link to article on academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/14229977/Cultures_of_lights