Urban and Urbanization

Perceptions of atmosphere: Air, waste, and narratives of life and work in Mumbai

How do residents on the socioeconomic margins of the city experience and perceive atmosphere? How does the concept of atmosphere change when we write it from a context of impoverished and stigmatized residents? Drawing on research in neighborhoods near Mumbai’s largest garbage ground, Deonar, we seek to advance a growing body of work on urban atmosphere. We examine how atmosphere operates materially and affectively through different and changing relations between air, waste, work, environment, and social conditions. The accounts from residents revolve around a set of recurring issues – health, smell, fire, and stagnant and contaminated water – through which different perceptions of atmosphere take shape. This reading both informs the pluralization and extension of understandings of atmosphere, from questions of health and bodily damage to social anxieties linked to stigma, and reveals atmosphere as an index of poverty and inequality. We argue for the value of a research focus on “perceptions of atmosphere” as part of a situated geography of atmosphere on the margins, and as a basis for understanding urban poverty, inequalities, and politics.

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Volume 40 Issue 4

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