Disappearing Spaces and Betraying Allies: Urban Transition and Street-based Sex Work in Bangalore

Neethi P, Anant Kamath | 2021


Neoliberal urban transition in Bangalore city over the last two decades has unleashed forces of gentrification and revanchism. Street-based sex workers in the city, as an informal workforce, have been systematically losing their tracts of life and livelihood due to this urban transition, which has aggravated their vulnerability and dispossession, denying even the existence of a narrative of urban transition experience from their viewpoint. An entire ecology around street-based sex work has disintegrated, pushing many workers into further invisibility, and gradual melting away their grasp on their city. It is critically important to reveal these experiences, by drawing out the sexual counter-geographies of Bangalore, since dominant urban imaginaries that fuel urban transition deny the very existence of alternative or subaltern spatial and social cartographies of the city. Relying on oral histories and narrative analysis, this paper constructs those alternative 143 cartographies as defined by these sex workers themselves, charting out the spatial and social contours of Bangalore’s ‘sexscape,’ consequently bringing out the ordeals of Bangalore’s overwhelming transition through textured accounts of these workers. In this process, we bring out the dismal intersections that undergrid their life and work, and threats to their very existence in the process of envisioning and unravelling the realisation of a city. This paper reinforces sex work as a theme in Indian urban studies, and urban space as a theme in Indian sex work scholarship.