BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    Being single, being ‘wrong’: pain and the remaking of gendered subjectivity in Delhi

    Butcher, Melissa (2022) Being single, being ‘wrong’: pain and the remaking of gendered subjectivity in Delhi. Gender, Place & Culture , ISSN 0966-369X.

    Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)


    This paper seeks to examine the role of social pain in the unmaking and remaking of urban subjectivities in a context of cultural change. I argue that doubt and uncertainty generated by shifting cultural boundaries underpins a drive to reassert extant social order, including gendered expectations, generating pain in the unmaking of subjectivities for those who are different or ‘other’. In the case of this study, the different are single, middle-aged, women in Delhi, standing outside normative familial structures and forced to answer the question ‘what’s wrong with you?’. However, everyday practices of repair and ‘swallowing’ pain could also work to remake a sense of self. Demonstrating invention as well as the politics of pain in their reclamations of space, these ‘wrong’ women reconfigured subjectivity as a form of cosmopolitanism often defined in opposition to ‘parochial’ others, particularly male migrant workers and cultural nationalists, who are made to lie beyond imagined urbane boundaries. The mirroring of exclusions highlights Elaine Scarry’s work on the incommunicability of pain that results, under conditions of neo-liberal and patriarchal social relations, in both women and working-class men being excluded from city spaces.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: Project website:
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Delhi, encounter, gender, identity, single, urban studies
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Research Centres and Institutes: Humanities, Birkbeck Institute for the (BIH)
    Depositing User: Melissa Butcher
    Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2022 15:31
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 18:19


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item