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Democracy against Development

Lower-Caste Politics and Political Modernity in Postcolonial India

Hidden behind the much-touted success story of India’s emergence as an economic superpower is another, far more complex narrative of the nation’s recent history, one in which economic development is frequently countered by profoundly unsettling, and often violent, political movements. In Democracy against Development, Jeffrey Witsoe investigates this counter-narrative, uncovering an antagonistic relationship between recent democratic mobilization and development-oriented governance in India.
Witsoe looks at the history of colonialism in India and its role in both shaping modern caste identities and linking locally powerful caste groups to state institutions, which has effectively created a postcolonial patronage state. He then looks at the rise of lower-caste politics in one of India’s poorest and most populous states, Bihar, showing how this increase in democratic participation has radically threatened the patronage state by systematically weakening its institutions and disrupting its development projects. By depicting democracy and development as they truly are in India—in tension—Witsoe reveals crucial new empirical and theoretical insights about the long-term trajectory of democratization in the larger postcolonial world. 

256 pages | 1 line drawing, 8 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2013

South Asia Across the Disciplines

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Asian Studies: South Asia

History: Asian History


Democracy against Development realizes a lot of the promise of the new political anthropology of India. Jeffrey Witsoe’s ethnographic focus ensures that the rich and diverse struggle over caste and its political forms can be revealed. He is able to show precisely how colonially structured caste, as identity and power, is reshaped in the working of Indian democracy.”

Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan, Yale University

“This is a most convincing ethnographic account of the ‘silent revolution’ that is taking place in North India. Jeffrey Witsoe analyzes the political rise of the lower castes in Bihar at the village level in a very perceptive way—without ignoring its limitations—and shows how it prepared the ground for economic development, which is the main plank of the Bihar government today. The result is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the democratization process at work in a state that used to be India’s black spot.”

Christophe Jaffrelot, Center for International Studies and Research, Sciences Po Paris

Table of Contents

Introduction: Democracy and the Politics of Caste

Chapter 1: State Formation, Caste Formation, and the Emergence of a Lower-Caste Politics

Chapter 2: Lalu Yadav’s Bihar: An Incomplete Revolution

Chapter 3: Caste in the State: Division and Conflict within the Bihar Government

Chapter 4: Caste, Regional Politics, and Territoriality

Chapter 5: A Multiple Village: Caste Divisions, Democratic Practice, and Territorialities

Chapter 6: A Multiple Caste: Intra-Caste Divisions and the Contradictions of Development

Chapter 7: The Fall of Lalu Yadav and the Meaning of Lower-Caste Politics


Reference ListIndex

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