Accepted paper:

'The art of bossing': the impact of muscular politics on everyday lives across South Asia


Lucia Michelutti (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

Presentation book manuscript 'Mafia Raj': The rule of Bosses in South Asia' by Lucia Michelutti, Ashraf Hoque, Nicolas Martin, David Picherit, Paul Rollier, Aril Ruud and Clarinda Still.

Paper long abstract:

Through 'the figure of the boss', we map out ethnographically how bosses and aspiring bosses rule; their statecraft techniques and contingent legitimaties across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. We highlight local spheres of criminality and their relations (or autonomy) with formal politics in seven settings. In the talk we argue that a focus on the 'de facto' micro-dynamics of (criminal) power (rather than on 'state effects' and 'discourse of corruption') unravels how bosses exercise control over people's lives; the systems of intimidation and uncertainty they create; and help to shed light on the opportunities and fantasies of power that such systems forge. In particular we focus on the impacts of bossism on the everyday lives of citizens and discuss how and why 'Mafia Raj' regimes remain largely uncontested and go hand in hand with competitive electoral democracies and high level of popular political participation.

panel P25
South Asian bossism