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231 Chapter 12 FROM PRACTICE TO FLEDGLING SOCIAL MOVEMENT IN INDIA Lessons from “The Ugly Indian” Aniruddha Abhyankar and Marianne E. Krasny In cities across India, encountering incredible filth in public spaces—piles of garbage accompanied by the stench of urine and stains of tobacco and paan spit—is a daily occurrence. Everyone dislikes it, yet many Indians contribute to the filth. Politicians and social organizations have tried clean-up drives and campaigns, but in a matter of days garbage and filth return. As India transforms into a modern society, many wonder how to start cleaning up and eradicating ugly public spaces. Eight years ago,an anonymous group of tech-savvy professionals in Bangalore began experimenting with ways to“nudge”citizens away from their littering, urination , and spitting behaviors. They realized that modern-day Indian attitudes and behaviors are at the root of the problem—“We Are All Ugly Indians”—and that until Indians accept that “we tolerate this filth and hence it prevails,” the problem will not be solved. Calling themselves “The Ugly Indian” (TUI), since 2010 this group has doggedly pursued the question: “What does it take to keep one city street clean?” This is the story of how TUI purposefully focuses on one small practice— cleaning up public spaces through short-term, volunteer“spot fixes.”But it is also the story of how TUI has forged an organizational and collective identity that reflects Indian cultural traditions of jugaad or self-help, as well as the competencies and values of a new Indian middle class. And because TUI spot fixes have spread so rapidly across India and more recently Pakistan, this is also a story that 232 MOVEMENT BUILDING illustrates how one can move from a civic ecology practice to collective—and Internet-mediated connective—action. Integral to the growth of TUI has been how it has skillfully framed its organizational and collective identity,while adopting features of inclusive, Internet-mediated forms of organization. Below we tell the story of TUI and then examine its work through the lenses of identity, framing , and attitudes and social norms. Finally, we use practice, organizational, and social movement theories and recent writing about connective action to answer the question, What are the larger impacts of new forms of hybrid organizations like TUI? The Ugly Indian Spot Fix A typical TUI spot fix lasts three hours. Volunteers ranging from slum dwellers to IT and corporate professionals congregate at a filthy space along a street or sidewalk and haul away trash. They then paint adjacent walls a terracotta color to hide spitting stains and add small pathways and planters. Upon completing a spot fix, volunteers publish visually dramatic before-and-after photos on social networking platforms. Any expenses are generally covered by the volunteers themselves. Throughout the process, volunteers remain anonymous; talking is not permitted during a spot fix. TUI has developed multiple strategies for stakeholder engagement and maintaining cleaned-up spaces. Spot fixes generally entail minimal government involvement, as local officials tend to ignore or even passively support commercial uses and homeless persons encroaching on public spaces and the resulting degradation. However, gaining acceptance and involvement from local stakeholders and community members is critical, because antagonism toward a spot fix from a single squatter, policeman, or local business can pose a threat to sustaining the cleanup beyond the immediate spot fix. In planning a spot fix, TUI asks those contributing to filth on the targeted public space for advice on how to transform it. For example, engaging people who left food for stray animals led TUI and the animal lovers to find alternative sites to feed cows, crows, and other creatures. TUI also asks local stakeholders to contribute simple things such as a broom, a bucket, or a place to store materials. And TUI has taken advantage of an Indian tradition whereby housemaids draw beautiful patterns with rice flour, which are respected across Indian society as auspicious designs (locally called kolam or rangoli). These same maids take out the garbage, often dumping it in public spaces. TUI invites the maids to draw the rangoli on a cleaned-up public space for several days after a spot fix, thus helping reinforce the perception of the space as beautiful rather than a dumping ground. Through such engagement, the CHAPTER 12 233 maids and others feel part of a group working together, and the space remains clean long enough to change local habits. TUI also encourages use of cleaned-up public spaces by installing plants...


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MARC Record
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