Theorizing the City

Racialized Minority Youth in India's Global Cities

  • Mabel Denzin Gergan Department of Geography, Florida State University
  • Sara Smith Department of Geography, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Keywords: Migration, planetary urbanization, education, urban Global South, South Asia, Ladakh


As linguistic, religious, and racialized minorities, Himalayan youth are one among many marginalized others migrating to Indian cities in pursuit of higher education. This article draws on research with college students from Ladakh in the Northwest Himalaya, formerly a district of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, designated its own Union Territory (autonomous jurisdiction) in 2019. Our research asks, how do Ladakhi youth look towards the future as outsiders and aliens in the urban Global South? In what ways are they architects building the city anew, creating their own cultural subtext to the city? We work to understand how Ladakhi youth use the city as a vector in their own life trajectory. We argue that young people are constantly theorizing the city from the perspective of marginalized others within the margins of the Global South. They theorize the city in four ways, as a site of: a) working through questions of difference, b) “exposure,” c) personal growth, and d) as a lens to consider the future of their hometowns. We propose, that through their critiques and desires, students reject the temporal assumptions of ‘planetary urbanization’ that an urban future awaits their mountainous hometowns. 


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How to Cite
Gergan, M., & Smith, S. (2021). Theorizing the City. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 20(4), 387-408. Retrieved from
Themed Section - From the Margins Within (Guest Ed. Aparna Parikh)