In this first book-length study of Mumbai’s taxi industry and of the livelihoods that surround it, Tarini Bedi draws from the lives and voices of chillia taxi drivers who have sustained a hereditary trade for more than a century. Bedi considers the Bombay taxi in all its forms: a material object that is driven, an economic and political connection, an expression of kinship, an embodiment of urban time and technology, and more. She illustrates how the accumulation of capital in this masculinized and mobile trade depends on forms of fixed domestic labor and an ethics of care, and how connections among these factors impact the production and reshaping of working-class personhood and laboring subjects. From beginning to end, the world of Mumbai automobility unfolds through depiction of the sensory, embodied, and political domains of taxi drivers’ work.
While most understandings of automobility remain tied to Western assumptions, patterns of driving, (sub)urbanization, and engagements with the road, realities in the Global South differ. Mumbai Taximen provides a correction to this imbalance from Mumbai through a timely exploration of South Asian social, material, political, labor, and technological histories and practices of motoring and automobility.
Tarini Bedi is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is author of The Dashing Ladies of Shiv Sena: Political Matronage in Urbanizing India.
Padma Kaimal is Batza Professor of Art and Art History at Colgate University. She is the author of Scattered Goddesses: Travels with the Yoginis (Association for Asian Studies, 2013).
Kalyanakrishnan "Shivi" Sivaramakrishnan is Dinakar Singh Professor of India and South Asia Studies, professor of anthropology, professor of forestry and environmental studies, and codirector of the Program in Agrarian Studies, Yale University.
Anand A. Yang is professor of international studies and history at the University of Washington. He is the author of Bazaar India: Markets, Society, and the Colonial State in Gangetic Bihar (University of California Press, 1998); translator and editor of Thirteen Months in China: A Subaltern Indian and the Colonial World (Oxford University Press); and coeditor of Interactions: Transregional Perspectives on World History (University of Hawai'i Press, 2005).
"A landmark book across a range of disciplines, and it makes for compelling and enjoyable reading."
~Asian Studies Review
"Mumbai Taximen accomplishes several things. While it offers an ethnographic account of an automobility that is part of a distinctively non-Western mode of capitalism, first and foremost it constitutes an intriguing case study of how a vehicle may be appropriated as a metaphor of social identity and moral agency. . . [T]he book includes sharply drawn vignettes that bring us into the practices and concerns of daily life. These will make the volume especially useful in the classroom."
"[T]heoretically and empirically rich. . . This book is an important contribution to work on the critical occupation of taxi-driving (related to urban mobility), which is currently undergoing a rapid transformation driven by technology and the aspirations of post-colonial citizens and the state."
"Mumbai Taximen’s narrative genius lies in the author’s “sensuous approach” which effectively transports the reader into the embodied, lived worlds of Indian automobility. . . [B]y inviting (indeed impelling) the reader into the lives of Mumbai’s taximen, in all its material messiness, palpable precariousness, quiet comforts, and dignified dangers, Bedi’s narrative puts up a roadblock to the charting of any easy path from social critique to straightforward solutions. This book unsettles. Which is why it needs to be read."
~Journal of Asian Studies
Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing