People of all classes, races and religions come and go in intense and complex Nehru Place. But while Delhi’s electronics market is every urbanologist dream, it is not the sort of space most cities are building.
I am uncomfortable about debates over separation and inclusion which move almost seamlessly to citing violent, extreme behavior as evidence for or against. Which is why Nehru Place is a better example to think about this issue than Molenbeek. Everyday people are going about their business with others unlike themselves, people they don’t know or perhaps don’t like. There is what might be called the democracy of crime here, as Hindus and Muslims both sell illegal electronics; a wave of violence would clear off customers for both. Getting along in this way isn’t particular to India, or to open-air markets. Numerous studies show that in offices or factories that adults of different religions and races work perfectly well together, and the reason is not far to seek.
Work is not about affirming your identity; it’s about getting things done. The complexity of city life tends, in fact, to breed many identities for its citizens as workers, but also as spectators at sports events, as parents concerned about schooling or patients suffering from NHS (Healthcare) cuts. Urban identities are porous in the sense that we are going in and out of lots of different experiences, in different places, with people we don’t know, in the course of a day. When pundits opine on the difficulty of difference, they flatten identity into a single image, just one experience. The modern economy can flatten identity when it sells people on the idea that gated, homogeneous communities are safe, (not true in fact), builds shopping centres only for shopping, or constructs office campuses and towers whose workers are sealed off from the city.