Amsterdam Talk (2014): Talk on ‘Aspirational Geographies of the Global South: A Digital and Creative Interplay by Marginalized Youth,’ at the Inverting Globalization Conference, Amsterdam Center for Globalization Studies.
This presentation delves into digital leisure practice among youth in four marginalized contexts: two rur-towns (Kuppam, Almora) and two slums (Hyderabad, Chennai), demonstrating how such online engagements shape offline cultural spatiality. In doing so, we explore the hybridity between the social, digital and cultural geographies of marginalized and resource-constrained environments in India. This work builds on the idea of aspiration, explained by Appadurai (2004) as the capacity to aspire is a tool to understand the relationship between culture, poverty and development. Appadurai argues that it is in the realm of culture that ideas of the future, as much as those about the past, are embedded and nurtured, especially among the poor. Hence, we make the case that not only is social media familiarizing these aspirations, but offering a new materiality to view and articulate a global aesthetic and life chances in unaccustomed, sometimes revolutionary ways. For instance, the everyday Facebook use in urban South Indian slums reveals reformulations of material and conceptual ideas about one’s social location, the subversion of these in friending patterns, in the extending of potential romantic opportunities and the experiencing of aspirational mobility. Through such actions, one is able to move and navigate beyond the confines of locality into global imaginaries and yet, have consequences to one’s social context as the youth build their ‘real’ status, reputation, and personhood through connecting and evoking global entities online.