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Accepted Paper:

Boundary Spanners or Double Agents?: Temporary Workers for Covid Vaccination Governance in India  
Chandni Shyam (Utrecht University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the role of community or Ngo workers for Covid vaccination governance in a South Indian city. Particular attention is paid to scholarship on boundary spanners and street level bureuacrats in state practices of spatialization and the maintenance of an information divide.

Paper long abstract:

This paper brings to the fore the role of double agents or boundary spanners for covid vaccination governance in India. Based on 6 months of ethnographic fieldwork in a South Indian city, this study reveals the dependence of the state on grassroots workers for providing contextual services in times of crisis. In the case of vaccination, there was a staunch resistance to state-sponsored vaccination drives. Most of the communities who were part of the study revealed a deep-rooted mistrust of the state. By hiring workers from these very communities or from NGOs that had established relationships with these communities, the state was able to increase vaccination turnouts drastically. In the context of vaccination governance, statecraft depended on the work and relationships of these temporary and disposable street-level bureaucrats. This paper contributes to questioning the definitions of civil society versus the state and concentrates on those who work for and instead of the state in such times of crisis. In the first part of the paper, the spatialization(Ferguson and Gupta 2002) achieved and traversed through grassroots statecraft is analyzed. In the next, the author examines the role of these double agents in accumulating for the state’s information capital(Bourdieu 1995) while also transferring information across its borders. This refers to large-scale quantitative data and biomedical knowledge. In the conclusion, this paper discusses how the necessity of such boundary spanners reveal the social contract between the state and its citizens to work for the public good(Bear and Mathur 2015).

Panel P067b
Grassroots states: Transformations of statecraft II
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -