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Bumpy Roads, Dusty Air: Gadbad and the Sensate Ecologies of Driving Work in Contemporary Mumbai

By Tarini Bedi

Cite As:
Bedi, Tarini. 2023. “Bumpy Roads, Dusty Air: Gadbad and the Sensate Ecologies of Driving Work in Contemporary Mumbai.” Cultural Anthropology 38, no. 1: 60–86.


I decouple the commonly discussed ecological destruction and unsustainability wrought by cars from a discussion of what life lived and sustained around automobiles looks like. Through fieldwork with hereditary Muslim taxi drivers in Mumbai, I look at urban ecological relations with those who work in what I call sensate ecologies. A sensate-ecologies approach connects labor and urban ecology and argues for a collective rather than an individual subject of urban theory. What I describe here as drivers’ sensate ecological relations with a difficult city—a condition that is usually considered ecologically and infrastructurally unsustainable—calls into question assumptions about ecological damage and precarious urban life. By analyzing taxi driving as relational, sensate work. rather than as precarious labor, I argue that urban sensate ecologies produce expertise for hereditary drivers that sustain over generations. I conclude that even unsustainable ecological onslaughts of automobility produce coexistence and sustainable social and sensate relations.


senses; cities; labor; ecologies; sustainability; automobilities; ethical orientations


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