Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Jeffrey Witsoe ─ Caste, Democracy and the Postcolonial State: A View from Bihar

Friday, February 7, 2014

2:30 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum

Reception to follow

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This talk explores what the politics of caste reveals about the dynamics of India's democracy. Bihar, with over a hundred million people, is India's poorest state known for caste conflict, corruption and political violence. At the same time, since the early 1990s a dramatic upsurge of lower caste politics swept Bihar and other parts of north India. Drawing on fieldwork conducted since 2002 in sites ranging from the state assembly to villages, the talk examines the contradictions that emerged when lower caste politicians took control of a state government that had long served to reinforce upper caste dominance.

Center for Contemporary South Asia

Jeffrey Witsoe is an anthropologist whose work has focused on a rethinking of democracy and the postcolonial state through an examination of lower-caste politics in Bihar. He is the author of Democracy Against Development (University of Chicago Press) and articles and book chapters on lower-caste politics in India. His current research explores the political economy of rural development, with a focus on India’s massive rural employment guarantee scheme. Another project examines the ways in which neoliberal economic growth is reshaping regional politics, with a focus on criminal networks related to natural resource extraction. He holds a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, an M.A. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge.