Curating #AanaJaana: gendered authorship in the ‘contact zone’ of Delhi’s digital and urban margins
NEW #OPENACCESS PUBLICATION IN CULTURAL GEOGRAPHIES.
This paper examines the curation of a month-long public exhibition titled #AanaJaana [#ComingGoing] in one of New Delhi’s busiest metro stations, as a form of self-authorship by young women from its digital and urban margins. #AanaJaana [#ComingGoing] is a metaphor for journeys, communications, connections, associations, interceptions, social networks and individual/collective behaviours, that is curated as women ‘see’ and ‘speak’ with/through their mobile phones. Using Marie Louise Pratt’s notion of ‘contact zone’, we examine #AanaJaana as a space of encounters that emerges by visually ‘composing-with’ as well as ‘learning-with’ the realities and constraints of space, technology and power. Based on self-authorship over a period of 6 months within a ‘safe space’ of a WhatsApp group of young women living in the urban margins, we draw attention to #AanaJaana as a set of crosscutting networks of power dynamics over women’s bodies across the home, mobile phone and the city. #AanaJaana refers to how young women in the margins negotiate the ‘freedoms’ of moving (aana) in online space with the ‘dangers’ of going out (jaana) into the city, or the restrictions of entering (aana) online space with the freedom of leaving (jaana) home. We argue first, that #AanaJaana is a space of confinement because of the infrastructural paralysis in the peripheries. Second that it is also at the same time translocally produced by referencing several textual, digital and material spaces of self-realisation. Finally, we argue that #AanaJaana is a space of intertextuality through encounters between emojis, shorthand, voice notes on the mobile phone, with parody and dark humour of their gendered experiences that can transform shame, humiliation and fear into reflection, resistance and agency. The paper concludes that as a polycentric practice, #AanaJaana offers an appropriate metaphor to expand the ‘contact zone’ in order to decolonise gendered knowledge and power across digital-analogue margins.