HERA-SINGLE workshop “Solo-cities: Representations of the ‘Single’ in Urban Spaces”

New Delhi, 6-8 October 2015. 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’ (http://www.hera-single.de/), 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.

Please go here for further details.