Radical housing and socially-engaged art:
Reflections from a tenement town in Delhi’s extensive urbanisation
Nitin Bathla and Sumedha Garg
Published in Issue 2.2 // The Long Read
Keywords: Socially engaged art, Radical housing, Creative methodologies, Tenement housing, Delhi
The relegation of workers’ housing to grey spaces or planned illegalities has ensured the availability of a permanently temporary migrant workforce to fuel the extensive urbanisation shaping around cities like Delhi. These grey spaces emerge as tenement towns in place of former agrarian villages, run and developed by agricultural landowners turned tenement entrepreneurs that exploit labour migrants as permanently temporary tenants. The challenges posed by the invisibilisation of such relations manifested sharply under the COVID-19 pandemic. A radical feminist politics has been emerging at the interstices as a counter against such violent dispossession employing creative narratives and ways of protest. This paper discusses the need for approaches that transcend research-activism boundaries while engaging with particularly marginalised communities. It discusses the potentials presented by socially engaged art in empowering radical politics through reflections from a long-term art-based inquiry conducted with women migrants in Kapashera, a tenement town located around Delhi.