School of Social Work - Mumbai Campus

National Seminar on 'Experiences, Aspirations and Struggles: New Middle Class in Indian Cities'


Date and time: July 26, 2018 10:00AM - July 27, 2018 10:00AM

Venue: Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.


The “newness” in the Indian Middle class, an urban trait associated with a heightened degree of consumption, has been traced to the effects of the neoliberal shift in India’s economy since the 1990s and is associated with the departure from the old middle class. Central to this shift to the new middle class is a new availability of easy capital and high purchasing power in a rapidly globalizing economy. This shift is also marked by a new assertive political role and an articulation of a new class identity based in mediated socio-symbolic practices of consumption and aspiration; lifestyles, education, employment and leisure, associated with commodities.

The demands of the new middle class manifest in a new “civil” activism and new forms of political mobilisation, and articulate aspirations for a “world class city”. Primarily, this politics is mediated through varied groups and associations which interface in negotiations with the bureaucracy and polity, and through mass media images which reinforce cultural signs and representations to reify a privileged and an aspirational class identity. Notions of urban development resultant in this state-class interface bring about a policy of urban restructuring, which sets off processes for the creation of a cityscape marked by a new middle class aesthetic; an aesthetic which is rooted in a consumerist and a commoditized notion of beauty, and in a dominant articulation of a “consumer citizen”.

But this politics of privilege often puts the new middle class in contention with the urban poor, which is expressed not just discursively, but also in the proliferation of securitization and gated-ness in the lived space, and through the deployment of the spatial aesthetic. This politics, marked by its exclusionary relation to the other – the urban poor, is also representative of an anxiety for maintaining the privilege and for improving the present status. It is important to note here that because the contours of this new middle class are not settled, the interface with the poor is not just one of contention, but one of a continuity and mobility, where many of those who constitute or will become a part of the new middle class in the near future will enter it from the ranks of the urban poor.

The new middle class in India is a burgeoning group, but it is not one which is homogenous. Central to the debate on the middle class, is the question of heterogeneity, based on their relative position in income brackets, regional distinctions, linguistic barriers, political contests, status anxieties, and caste and religious hierarchies. The heterogeneity and complexity is hard to delineate in definitional terms which currently categorize the new middle class. In an attempt to understand the new middle class, as well as the processes which go into making it, it is important to engage with the subjective experiences of modern life, which is tied to the consumerist, the aspirational, and to the political. In order to deliberate upon a range experiences, aspirations and struggles of new middle classes, we are organising a two days national seminar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

Key themes
Through this Call for Papers, we invite researchers to submit proposals for papers, to be presented at an national seminar to be held at Tata Institute of Social Sciences Mumbai in July 2018, that critically explore complexities and nuances associated with the new middle class through specific subthemes and their varied aspects:

  1. Consumption and Lifestyle
  2. Civic and Political Engagement
  3. Identity and Intersectionality
  4. Old and New Forms of Media
  5. City, Classes and Contestations
  6. Struggles and Aspirations

Key Date(s) and Submission Process
Abstract Submission: April 17, 2018 to May 5, 2018
Notification of selected abstract: May 12, 2018
Paper submission: July 9, 2018
Seminar Date : July 26-27, 2018
Submission of revised Paper for peer review for publication: August 31, 2018

Guidelines for Abstract: The extended abstract will be approximately 500 words long and will outline the main issues, hypotheses, arguments, methodology, case studies, structure of the paper and keywords. Please submit your abstract along with your CV and contact details to

Guidelines for Paper Submission: Successful candidates will be notified by 12th May 2018 and will be invited to submit a draft paper, due no later than 9th July 2018. The full paper should follow APA Style Guide and should not exceed 6000 words, including abstract, figures, references and appendices.

Publication: Subject to peer review, selected papers will be published in an edited volume through a commercial publisher or as a special issue of an academic journal. They should, therefore, not be under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Venue and Arrangements: The National Seminar is scheduled for 26th-27th July 2018 at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. The paper presenters will have to make arrangements for their travel. Modest accommodation and local hospitality during the seminar on 26th and 27th July 2018 will be arranged by the organisers.

Supported By: The seminar is supported by a small grant of the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research led by Prof. Manish K Jha and Prof. Pushpendra Kumar. Two of the sub-themes and panel presentations/discussions will be supported by the Ford Foundation.

Seminar Coordination Team: Ms. Piyali Sen, Professor Manish K Jha and Professor Pushpendra Kumar, TISS. For more information, write to