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Accepted Paper:

Participatory Governance and the making of brokerage among Dalits in Delhi  


Aditya Mohanty (Central University Of South Bihar)

Paper short abstract:

This paper helps us reimagine brokers among subaltern groups at the local level as 'networked stakeholders'. In so doing, it examines the new ways in which the State capitalizes on both a) the erstwhile clientele predilections and b) the emergent economic precarity of subaltern groups.

Paper long abstract:

The local State in urban spaces has emerged as a site for engendering new circuits of cultural assertion and political mobilization. Inspired from Latin American contexts (Balderacchi 2016 and Goldfrank 2017), the 'participatory turn' in urban governance, has re-invented South Asian governmentalities (Legg 2018) in such a way that hitherto marginalised stakeholders have succeeded to 're-politicise' everyday contestations 'through technical rules' (Chiodelli 2012). It is herein, that I explore in this paper, as to how the setting up of a Resident Welfare Association (RWA) in a marginalized (dalit) neighbourhood in Delhi, unsettles the hegemony of traditional community leaders viz., pradhans and creates new spaces of political engagement among the 'old' and 'new' community leaders. By tracing two events viz., protest against a land acquisition drive and sanitation workers' strike, in East Delhi, this paper shows as to how reforms in participatory local urban governance facilitated a new regime of brokerage. Such a regime not only cuts across territorial lines but also capitalizes on both a) the clientele predilections of subaltern identity and b) the emergent economic precarity of sanitation workers. It thus compels us to reimagine such brokers among subaltern groups at the local level as 'networked stakeholders' (Krishna 2011; Jeffrey and Young 2014) and not as passive clients. Thus, in conclusion, I argue that RWAs among urban subaltern groups have put forth a more nuanced and 'strategic' politics of State-craft as 'brokerage' (Bjorkman 2014) that does not merely operate as a knee-jerk, instrumentalist move to consolidate vote banks.

Panel AA11
Anthropologists and geographers engaging in public policy and practice