Autogestion and competing hierarchies: deaf and other perspectives on diversity and the right to occupy space in the Mumbai surburban trains

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Social & Cultural Geography, ISSN: 1464-9365, Vol: 18, Issue: 2, Page: 201-223

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Annelies Kusters
Informa UK Limited
Social Sciences
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article description
This article offers a detailed ethnographic account of how people appropriate available space in compartments for disabled people in the Mumbai suburban trains, make it their own and monitor it, in the context of a succession of recent spatial changes. These compartments have increased in size over the years, and subsequently, the body of travellers has become more diverse. Passengers produce hierarchies based on need, physical differences, age differences and physical appearance, determining who can enter the compartments and who can’t, who can sit and who should stand, and where they should sit/stand. These hierarchies are mediated, but not dominated, by medical and disability certificates which are, in addition to a valid ticket, the documents that entitle people to travel in the handicapped compartments. Hierarchies are influenced by sexism, classism and audism and partially overlap but also are competing, such as in the case of deaf people who argue for the right to occupy seats and at the same time struggle with how to balance this quest with the need to act morally towards fellow travellers who seemingly suffer.