Listening into Others: Moralising the Soundscapes in Delhi

Tripta Chandola  | 2012


Slums represent a tense moment in the urban fabric of Delhi. At the most fundamental level their position in the city is determined by their illegal occupation of state land; owing to this peculiar predicament, their entries into mainstream, legitimate network are limited, if not completely restricted, and they operate within an extensive network of informal economy and practices. In this article, drawing on ethnographic research conducted in a prominent slum-settlement in Delhi, India’s capital city, I argue that a narrative of immorality has been systemically and systematically constructed to consider the position of slums and slum-dwellers in the city, such that their claims to (and rights in) the city are negotiated within an ‘informal-illegal-immoral’ matrix. I explore these negotiations through the politics of sound and more specifically the identification of sounds of and from certain spaces as ‘noisy’. In this article I situate these negotiations in relation to what is termed as a sensorial re-turn in Delhi’s urban planning policies and practices.