Cultures of Commuting: The Mobile Negotiation of Space and Subjectivity on Delhi’s Metro


Melissa Butcher

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - asia, mode - subway/metro, ridership - behaviour, ridership - commuting, ridership - young people


Delhi, identity, culture, commuting, young people, public transport


As part of Delhi’s redevelopment, aimed at creating a ‘global city’, new public transport infrastructure is being built. The Metro, in particular, has become iconic of what city authorities and developers refer to as Delhi’s ‘cosmopolitan’ and ‘world city’ status. Authorities have attempted to change commuting practices embedded in the culture of Delhi, a crowded, economically and culturally diverse city, in line with desired new behaviours including an emphasis on cleanliness, order and quiet. To explore these developments this paper presents findings from a qualitative study (conducted in 2009) analysing the urban mobility of a diverse group of young people. Their experiences of the Metro revealed interacting fields of power in the city, between passengers, and between passengers and those in control of the network. These relationships were situated within wider processes of urban reconstruction that intersect with global flows of capital, technology and ideologies of ‘modernity’ and development. The findings also highlighted the contestation of cosmopolitanism: its use to describe a desired urban imagination and its deployment as everyday competencies of negotiation and flexibility designed to manage change, unfamiliarity and inequality.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Taylor & Francis, copyright remains with them.