Male migrants’ caring friendships (dostis) make cities, Delhi, run. One of capitalism’s “hidden abodes”, these friendships cradle the urban poor through its insecurities and violences. Friendships create wiggle room: the space-times for making meaningful lives. The fluidity of friendships, the multiple forms of relatedness and betrayal they encompass, are particularly well suited to subtending informal economy work. Based on interviews with working class men, I argue: friendships are ontologies through which male migrants experience a city as a particular city. The city figures in the imaginations of men as a space of possibility for friendships not defined by caste, kinship, and gender relations. Translated into everyday practices of “caring karna”, the city is where the “doing of caring” across difference materializes. But friendship is agonistic, fraught and fragile; always vulnerable to unfriending, based on those very plays of difference, which may re-orient people away from it. In ephemeral and infinite friendships, men care by standing witness to violence, to fight against indifference, to stake citizens’ claims to a just city. Friendship offers social scientists and working-class migrants wiggle room, a space of hopeful, dynamic, and relational sociality, integral to a vision of the city as a space of possibility.
Priti Ramamurthy is a Professor in the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington. An ethnographer, she has returned to the same villages in the Telangana region of southern India for three decades, to understand the relationship between the social reproduction of families, lives and livelihoods and processes of agrarian transformation. Prof. Ramamurthy’s articulation of feminist commodity chain analysis, as a way to track the creation of value and gendered identities, is a methodological contribution to studies of gender and globalization.