South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Mobile Phones, Security, and Embodiment in Urban India

Friday, July 6
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Marigold, New Building

This paper concerns narratives from urban Indian women about mobile phones’ ability to see through clothes, listen in on conversations and spread unwanted information. Drawing on ethnographic work in Hyderabad, India at basic computer training centers, I use these vignettes to look at the intersection of urban security, new technologies, and embodiment. This is inspired by Caduff’s (2012) claim that the “semiotic logic of iterability” is central to security (341). Iterability marks both the repetition and change that accompanies a thing over time: I use it to theorize how new technologies – for these students – encompass both the promise of opportunity and bring new concerns about gendered security. Part of this semiotic shift is that physical bodies increasingly “circulate in informational forms” (Caduff 2012: 343). This paper analyzes embodied security at a moment when the body enters new avenues of circulation. I look at the impact of assumed surveillance of bodies as they move through the city and strategies women employ to curtail the circulation of photos online. I argue that these experiences with new technologies produce new forms of embodiment and multiple forms of self-policing to protect one’s body as students navigate trying to make it in urban India.

Kathryn Zyskowski

University of Washington, United States

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