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Dreaming in the shadow of history: Micro-mobilities and belonging in Lucknow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)500-513
Number of pages14
JournalContemporary South Asia
Issue number4
Early online date29 Oct 2021
Accepted/In press21 Jul 2021
E-pub ahead of print29 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: I am indebted to Aasim, Ahmad and Ayaz for sharing their lives and allowing me to write about them. I also thank Parul Bhandari, Shelley Feldman, Eva Gerharz, Bani Gill and Sanderien Verstappen for their input on earlier drafts and deeply appreciate the constructive, in-depth engagement of CSA?s two anonymous reviewers. Publisher Copyright: © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

King's Authors


Spatial mobility is often considered on large geographical scales: people move from distant villages to global cities, they migrate from one country to the next, or even to a whole new continent. Such large-scale migration comes with shifts in economic position, social status and cultural exposure, shifts that condition new figurations of belonging - or so the argument goes. In contrast, I ethnographically follow the looping movements of three young men in Lucknow who aspire to migrate but remain stuck, who find a whole new world by crossing the river, whose small steps reflect big dreams. As the world grapples with ‘lockdowns’ and ‘stuckedness’ in the Covid-19 pandemic, I sketch their aspirations, mental maps and the material restraints that condition their trajectories. Through them, I demonstrate how looping micro-mobilities - cruising through the night, dancing on stage, riding one's bike - can be as effective in fostering new figurations of belonging as the grand movements emphasized in literature on migration. I further explore which spaces enable and contain such micro-mobilities, rediscovering the potency of urban settings to make people feel at home and out of place in small but important ways.

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