The everyday state and its discontents: understanding state-society interactions in South Asia

Nilisha Vashist (University College London)
Chakraverti Mahajan (Delhi University)
Ligertwood 216 Sarawak Room
Start time:
12 December, 2017 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel explores the nature of state's interaction with society and the emergent ground realities through ethnography of everyday lives in South Asia.

Long abstract:

The concept of state and its relation to society has always eluded comprehensive definitions. Is the state capable of transforming and regulating the society through its legitimization of power or do various social forces- in resisting and contesting the state, create transformations in the state polity? What is the nature of state-society interactions? How does the state elude/transform due to these interactions? Following Migdal's 'state-in-society' approach, this panel aims to understand the state's 'elusiveness' in South Asia through ethnographic explorations of 'everyday messiness' that emerges when state interacts with, tries to contain or modify and in turn is contested/modified by social forces. Ethnographically embedded research studying these everyday interactions between the state and the society holds promise of advancing our current understanding of the state in South Asia by bringing in the 'field-view'. In India, for example, the state's recent push for a Hindutva dominated society has been met with resistance from various social forces, including Dalits (Una protest, against beef-ban), self-determination movements in Kashmir and the north-east, youth against radicalization of campuses and discrimination based on caste (Rohith's suicide), and the liberal academia. Similarly, entire South Asian region offers a fertile ground for understanding complex interactions of the state with different local social forces- which transform the state as much as, if not more than, the society. We invite papers, especially from early career researchers, that capture the empirical understanding of such an interplay of state with other social forces, including those considered 'marginal'.