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Provide a photo-essay on Fear and urban life OR Surveillance. Take your own carefully selected images (up to a maximum of 10) and provide an interpretive commentary that draws on relevant criminological and sociological perspectives to discuss how your images highlight key aspects of these approaches.
During this essay I am going to consider how fear has become ingrained in urban living. I will do this by presenting a discussion, through criminological and sociological theory, on urban living in contemporary India. With the use of photographs I will offer not only a theoretical standpoint but also an illustration of the reality. This will provide a view which encompasses the dualistic nature of urban living, this being both the hypothetical approaches and the actual experience, thus merging mainstream criminology with culture and situation (Ferrell, Hayward, & Young, 2008). I intend to look into the topic of fear with a particular focus on the development of the fear of strangers. This area is of distinct interest in contemporary Indian culture as major cities have become so densely populated that a culture of fear has intensified in post modernism. To demonstrate this I will start by explaining how this fear of others has evolved. I will argue it has been through globalisation, the media and a lack of honest policing which has fuelled a sense of perpetual fear. I will then go on to discuss how this fear has been expressed and dealt with by individuals in this modern consumerist society. I will look at how fear has been capitalised through consumer goods and how it is not only catering to demand but also creating a new sense of fear. Along with this I will talk about privatised security and gated communities which have developed as a result of urban fear and crime. Finally I will talk about the implications this fear has had for Indian society and how it has affected daily life. Within this I will contend that it has lead to a lack of community, a reintroduction of the formal caste system and a loss of civic value. To conclude I will comment on how great the problem of fear has become and how it is not only affecting society as a whole but also the individual and how they go about daily life. But first let me turn to how fear has evolved in contemporary India.
There are many aspects of cultural and social changes which may have resulted in a rise in a fearful population, however for the purposes of this essay I'm going to focus on the effects of globalisation, the media and policing. Moreover, it is important to note that the area I will be referring to of Pune in India boasts a low crime rate and therefore changes in criminal activity cannot be held accountable for a rise in fear and its subsequent expression (The PuneKar, 2007).
Globalisation is fundamentally the integration of national culture and capital into one inter-related global system. For India this has meant the adoption of consumerist ideals and "liquid modernity" (Bauman, 2000). For Bauman liquid modernity meant increased individuality, flexibility and instability of social forms which infers an increased sense of risk (Giddens, 1991). These forms are further imbedded through the globalisation of capitalist values which lead to an ever increasing emphasis on individuality. This leads to a sense of fear as people who used to be recognisable in a national culture have become unfamiliar through 'buying into' consumerist uniqueness and have thus become strangers in a fragmented society. Moreover, along with capitalism comes a stress on wealth, and as Beck explains a "wealth-distribution society" soon becomes a "risk-distributing society" (2004, p. 20). This means that there has been increased segregation between the rich and poor causing anxiety and insecurity, because of lack of means, for the poor and a fear of crime, such as robbery and mugging, for the rich (Carrabine, 2008). On a local level, because of the interpenetration of global culture into local there has been a decrease in the upkeep of traditional values. This leads to a lack of national interconnectedness and local solidarity, creating segregation and ultimately fear through the feeling of unfamiliarity that is left. Although this globalisation does offer great opportunity to India it also offers a great risk and one way in which this is accelerated is through the media which I will now discuss.
It wasn't until the early 90's that international television channels were allowed by the government to be introduced into India and even then it was heavily controlled and censored (Oza, 2006). This was mainly because of debates which argued whether international television would put Indian culture at risk, thus showing a fear of how other nations can influence their own traditions. However the main point I would to make is how events portrayed in the media can produce a sense of fear. It is widely accepted that fear sells, people's sense of curiosity, concern for their own safety and need to know what is going on entices them into buying or viewing media which reports dramatised events that induce fear. But, not only does this lead to profit for the reporting corporations, it also leads to a more fearful society as "scary TV cultivates scared people" (Ferrell, Hayward, & Young, 2008, p. 127). Moreover it is in the interest of the media to create moral panics to increase financial gain. Moral panics are essentially the perceived threat of something to society which is stylised by the mass media to create fear which is not proportionate to the actual risk (Cohen, 1973). This moral panic may create a fear of strangers, which in urban life can have a serious impact on daily life as you encounter strangers regularly. For example, in Pune in early August 2009 a moral panic was created about swine flu through the media representation of the flu. Its effects were widely over-exaggerated in news papers and on the news leading to an irrational reaction to a minor problem. At first people wore masks to supposedly protect them from the virus, however it was later discovered that the masks didn't actually stop it from spreading and were simply a money making ploy. Next, people became very fearful of strangers, seeing every unknown face as a threat to their health and a possible carrier of the virus and this lead to people staying indoors. Finally this resulted in a week long closing down of the entire city, businesses and shops closed and the city was left deserted. All because the media sensationalized a problem which in reality wasn't that major; only around fifty people out of five million died because of the virus (Deccan Herald, 2009), which is a merely a handful when compared to the three thousand and three hundred that die each year on the roads (Bende, 2009). This shows how one small problem can be blown out of proportion by the media and create mass and irrational fear of other people in urban life.
In terms of social control the policing in Pune has been one area to provoke a sense of fear. Policing in India is on the large part corrupt and unjust, which does not leave citizens with a particular sense of safety. Police use their position of power to procure money through false fines rather than perform useful tasks. For example while driving in India we were fined a small amount for no coherent reason while about 80% of other drivers were speeding. Moreover, in congested traffic areas the police offer their presence but no real control leaving a sense of anarchy on the roads in which only leads to more traffic and chaos (Mahapatra, 2009). Shown in the photograph below is a police officer who parked at the top of a busy T-junction but proceeded to do nothing but stand and watch:
None of this gives people a particular trust in the police force that should be controlling crime and therefore only invokes fear of crime. As Garland (Garland, 2001) states, this fear should bring about a change in policing, however unlike in most western cultures, it has not. Moreover, while most western cultures adopted a "broken windows" (Kelling & Coles, 1996, p. 2) approach to crime, India clearly has not. Broken windows theory states that if you clear up the small problems, like graffiti and rubbish then major problems will also deteriorate. In India however, there is an ever present problem of small crime which is not dealt with on any level, only adding to fear and insecurity in urban life, which could be eliminated. The impact this fear and insecurity has can only really be seen when we look at how it has been expressed.
The main way in which we can physically see the reality of the fear in urban life is through consumerist outlets, how people are conveying fear in the precautionary measures they feel necessary to acquire. First I will look into how the places in which we consume have been fortified in a public reaction to a perceived threat.
Ritzer (2005) theorised the places we consume as enchanting and seducing, places of fantasy where there can be the superficial possibility of 'dreams coming true', an escape from the harsh reality of urban life. Yet the actuality of it in India is far from a "cathedral of consumption" (Ritzer, 2005, p. 7) as shopping malls and other public areas of consumption become plagued with security measures. This is what Hannigan saw as the creation of a riskless space (1998) in this culture where control is paramount to reduce crime, however this visible control only reinforces fears. These spaces do not entice and tempt but rather create an uneasy sense of mistrust of other consumers with metal detectors on entrance and armed security guards inside (Maguire, Morgan, & Reiner, 2007). For example, the photograph below shows a metal detector at the door to a cinema complex with a security supervising it:
This privatised security has caused a loss in public space, where there is freedom, and created a new emphasis on security which not only makes you believe that there is a threat to be dealt with but also when there are no such security measures makes you anxious and fearful of what might be out there (Carrabine, 2008). Therefore, it can be argued that these so called 'precautionary measures' only elicit a fear of criminal activity rather than putting our minds at ease.
But it is not only where people buy but also what they are buying and what is being produced, the fear-fighting products that are in the shops, providing for a fearful market. For example big SUV cars are fashionable as a way to find security in amongst the fear of inner city driving and unavoidable risk contained within, such as road accidents and theft (Bauman, 1998). Moreover the security industry presupposes that crime, or at least the fear of crime, will persist and so it continues to produce for it which only means that the fear will also persist (Deshpande, 2004). As people will see the fear-fighting products in shops and assume that there is a threat which they must safe guard themselves against. In India especially as consumerism is on the rise in an effort to keep up with the west in technology and fashion people are more susceptible to want buy the latest gadget in security (Singh, 2002).
However, people are not only buying into fear-fighting products but also fear fighting lifestyles. Gated communities are now on the rise in India as people are moving away from the city centre to enclosed and monitored living environments. As Fogelson (2005) explains in 'Bourgeois Nightmares' people move away from areas of criminal activity to escape the fear of crime. It is a system of prevention which provides perfect evidence for how security industries have been able to profit from fear of urban living (Ferrell, Hayward, & Young, 2008). Gated communities are in essence a fenced in housing complex which is rich with, for example, security guards, CCTV and passwords on gates, what is seen as the ultimate combination for the prevention crime. It is a place where tenants can feel safe and at ease that they are protected. This adds to the rise of a "fortress society" (Maguire, Morgan, & Reiner, 2007, p. 881) where situational prevention becomes paramount, such that the opportunity for crime is reduced (Ronald & Hough, 1980). However in a society riddled with inequality such as in Pune these communities only increase inequality as it is distinguishable between those who can afford to protect themselves and those who can't (Carrabine, 2008). But as Bauman (2001) explains, a real community cannot be built on fear and insecurity. This means that gated communities will not flourish in the same sense that that true communities do in sharing and mutual care as it is based on an individual need for security. Although gated communities may work in that they offer safety and social inclusion they also offer increased exclusion and outward display a lack of trust in and a fear of others (Deshpande, 2004).
So what impact has this sense of ambient fear had on society? I will now look into this by exploring what it has meant for community living, the caste system and civic values.
Traditional community for Bauman (2000) is a comfortable and safe environment which ignites feelings of happiness. Moreover in society community boundaries are the difference between trust and suspicion of strangers (2000). However in this society of increased individuality and risk, community appears to have fractured all together through increasing mistrust and fear of criminals (Box, 2003). Especially in Indian culture, traditional social bonds have weakened as a result of social and cultural changes (Singh, 2002). In urban living community has dissolved because of increased mobility and with such a vast population it is hard to cling to a community of any description. In addition, it has been proven that people living in inner city environments are more fearful than those living outside the city which means that people are less likely to embrace strangers and form a community (Carrabine, 2008). In essence, community has become a "paradise lost" (2001), it is no longer an assumed part of society. It has been replaced with perpetual fear of strangers and the anxiety of crime, which means people lack trust and security in where they live.
The caste system in India is a cultural system of social division which originates from the Hindu religious beliefs of karma and reincarnation. It states that your class status is a result whether you had a good or bad previous life. However it is a very well defined system that systematically segregates each person into four class groups. It has been argued that that the caste system had been abolished but despite efforts to move beyond the caste system it still remains a very visible aspect of social life (Kumar, 2009). In terms of fear and urban life the caste system gives cultural meaning to social relationships but also aggravates crime though of the increasing marginalisation and relative deprivation (Singh, 2002). This means that the higher castes are gaining more in a continuingly developing and globalising country while the poor remain in poverty and growing a deeper resentment towards the higher castes. This structure of inequality has created an unsafe society, mainly through the higher castes fear of criminal activity in the lower castes, in which a criminal caste has developed (Madan, 1979). This is a caste of robbers and thieves who have inherited a role in the social order of exclusion and crime. This system of caste conforms to labelling theory which is a theory of social deviance which, in essence, states that if labelled a criminal a person is more likely to partake in criminal activity. Commodities such as security products and gated communities have only forced this caste separation further leaving greater social division and inequality which worsens crime and subsequently the fear of crime.
In a society based on individualism, lack of community and overly protective security measures it is no wonder that civic values and respect for fellow humans has decreased. If we are only 'looking out' for ourselves and have a persistent sense of fear of other people then a change in social relationships which encompass selfishness and suspicion will evolve. Moreover it can be argued that in the past it was spiritual and religious duty that prompted people to have mutual respect and care for each other, but now we find ourselves in a society of normlessness (Carrabine, 2008). This means that there is a lack of regulation and integration, a sense on anomie where moral education is deficient (Ray, 2009). For example in 2008 nearly two hundred people were stampeded to death at an Indian temple because a few rocks fell from the path above causing people to unnecessarily panic and in a personal effort to save themselves they injured others (Page, 2008). This shows that the fear of what the stranger passing us on the street might be capable of doing to us has lead to a loss of values and disrespect for others, causing an increase in anti-social behaviour.