Other links:

Other links:

Event Calendar

Loading Events

Political Science Colloquium 14th February

Politics of Dignity: When does Identity Politics generate Redistribution?

  • This event has passed.

India is widely described as a “patronage democracy”. A common perception is that Indian politicians prioritize “identity politics” over development, as reflected in their excessive focus on ethnic quotas or appointing co-ethnics in powerful positions in the bureaucracy. Scholars have explained this phenomenon as neo-patrimonialism, patronage, and even the politics of retribution. Most existing studies, however, narrowly focus on contemporary politics. This research takes a longer view of the transformation in ethnic politics and development policy through a comparative historical analysis of two states – Bihar and Tamil Nadu. Both experienced strong lower-caste mobilization. While Tamil Nadu’s robust welfare state is credited to lower-caste social movements, caste politics in Bihar is believed to be detrimental to development. I challenge this dominant understanding by demonstrating that movements in both states were rooted in a broader notion of social justice that sought equalization of social hierarchy, what I call the “politics of dignity”. The politics of dignity, manifested through descriptive representation in state institutions, not only preceded redistribution in the two states, but representational policies were instrumental in generating the structural conditions for redistributive politics. Not unlike Bihar, a closer examination of early twentieth century Tamil Nadu reveals decades of contentious politics surrounding identity before social development found political support. This talk is based on the qualitative part of my ongoing book project. I draw on archival sources, memoirs of politicians and civil servants, public spending patterns, and evidence from fieldwork to uncover the mechanisms through which the identity of the individuals who run the state influences state capacity to deliver redistributive policies.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka

    [current_url]