When transport becomes a destination: deaf spaces and networks on the Mumbai suburban trains

Annelies Kusters*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
246 Downloads (Pure)


This article considers dense social interactions in commuter trains and their crucial role within city-wide networks. Literature on social interactions in public transport has focused on how commuters have short interactions with each other, or constitute groups of train friends, but without situating them in wider geographies. The article focuses on deaf people in the Mumbai metropolis who travel in compartments reserved for disabled people, chatting and exchanging news and information. These spatial practices are facilitated by the peninsular geography and train infrastructure of Mumbai. In order to produce deaf spaces, where deaf sociality and sign language use are the organizing principles, deaf people strategically board particular trains and particular compartments, and sometimes remain in the train beyond their original destination. Mobile phones are used to coordinate these meetings. The diversity of people meeting in the train is high, such as with regard to gender, age, religion, caste, class and divisions are either perpetuated or abated. Because these compartments provide a diverse range of deaf people a space for daily meetings on the way to and from their (mostly hearing) work places and families; they are very important spaces to maintain and expand networks in the wider Mumbai deaf community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-193
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Cultural Geography
Issue number2
Early online date30 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2017


  • Belonging
  • disability
  • infrastructure
  • mobilities
  • networks
  • transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Cultural Studies


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