ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The Cybermohalla Project or The Importance of Storytelling to Keep Places and Communities Alive


Barnabei Valentina - University of Heidelberg | Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Modern South Asian Languages and Literatures (SAI, Heidelberg) | DSAAM (Ca' Foscari, Italy), Heidelberg | Venice, Germany


29 – Travelling stories, bodies and genres and the making of communities


 In response to the wave of bastis’ demolitions that hit Delhi between 1990 and 2010 and the subsequent forced relocation of bastis’ residents, a group of dwellers of working-class neighborhoods and unplanned settlements started gathering in Labs established by the Cybermohalla Project (2001-2013), an initiative born from the cooperation between the Ankur Society and the Sarai Project. The Cybermohalla’s practitioners engaged in cocreative artistic practices to reflect on Delhi’s urban space and their presence within it, while exploring new expressive forms to develop a counter-narrative about life in bastis from the point of view of the residents. Many bastis’ residents experienced eviction and relocation to remote areas of the city: forced displacements that led to deep changes in lifestyle, job loss, and the destruction of local communities. Besides videos, the most relevant artistic production of the practitioners consists of collections of writings, drawings, and photographs presenting an autobiographical perspective. By combining narrative and methodological approaches like literary geography, literary anthropology, and field interviews, I analyze some of the Hindi literary production written by the Labs’ practitioners. In particular, I investigate the roles and potentialities of storytelling in keeping together scattered communities and keeping alive the memory and existence of demolished neighborhoods.