Inaugurated in 2014, India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) intends to eradicate open defecation in urban and rural areas by 2019. In cities, the scheme ranks municipalities for achieving open defecation-free status and other measures of cleanliness. In 2017, Indore was first nationally recognized with the national Cleanest City award. In the weeks before the city was evaluated, it sponsored a number of activities that demolished housing and sanitation infrastructures, singled out the female body for humiliation, and forced residents to revert back to the very sanitation practices the city was allegedly trying to eradicate.
This paper traces the differing articulations of power at work between the extension and demolition of the city’s infrastructure. It focuses particularly on latrines, the metrics, and the urban vision to make Indore the Cleanest City, but also gives attention to the additional infrastructures connected to latrine-making and unmaking, including housing. We specifically explore two dimensions of what we call the “infrastructural intersectionality” of the Clean City Mission, which discloses differing forms of compounding infrastructural violence that include the dissolution of both material and social infrastructures. Firstly, the intersectionality of gender/caste/class/race social identities and power relations that are embedded and reified through infrastructures and, secondly, the intersectionality of multiple infrastructures that are inter-connected and co-constituted through each other. We argue that bringing the lens of intersectionality is critical for recognizing the socially differentiated and gendered dimensions of sanitation infrastructure, the SBM, and its situated infrastructural violence. By exploring two themes related to infrastructure and intersectionality, we show the criticality of embodied and gendered approaches to analyzing the power of infrastructure in the everyday.