Friday, May 29, 2009

Fragmented Communitas

The notion of community has changed dramatically with the entry of digital culture. With cyber relationships forming vast global networks and swift infoways feeding fluid knowledge systems, the means to form inter-relational societal structures are extensively diversified. Besides a virtual coming together, there is also increased mobility between geographic boundries as governments put on a friendly face for foreign businesses, tourists, students and scholars. There are exceptions as not all 'outsiders' are welcomed within closed borders. Today, racial conflict and socio-economic neglect are pervasive in refugee colonies and migrant ghettos across the world. As transnational politics becomes complex, and social neighbourhoods become larger webbed cross-cultural realities it seems as though we need to re-conceptualize the idea of community.

Ever since I've come to Khoj, I have been observing the micro-neighbourhoods that exist within the area. With a highly fluctuating demographic composition, Khirki village is a melange of many social imaginaries. The emergence of the Citywalk mall opposite the road, has had a huge impact on the socio-economic dynamics of the locality. The urban village was once occupied by large groups of migrant labourers but with the altering of the surrounding cityscape it is now becoming a convenient living space for young call centre workers, students and basically those categorized as 'upwardly mobile.'

A visit to the Khirki Masjid built under the Tughlaq dynasty provided me an enlightening peep into the manner in which residents engage with a historical monument in their midst. While children consider it a playsite, young males treat it as a congregational space for a lazy afternoon of card-playing. To the tourist and the occasional student of architecture or archaeology, a visit to this site holds another set of values all together. I enjoy watching the streets around the Khoj studio metamorphose through the day. As evening approaches, residents begin to wander through the lanes - making conversation with passer-bys, squatting on porches, collecting around tea stalls, momowallas and ice-cream carts.

When I got here I was hoping to gain a more meaningful insight on art emerging from community based processes, now I'm beginning to concern myself with attempting to address fundamentals, starting with what constitutes a community...

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