Archive for Development in Orissa

International Aid, Civil Society and Politics of Development

Development Aid Confronts Politics: The Almost Revolution by Thomas Carothers and Diane de Gramont. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2013; How to Manage an Aid Exit Strategy: The Future of Development Aid by Derek Fee. London: Zed Books, 2012.

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Debates on international development aid are not new; some have supported aid, some have opposed it. In his bestselling 2005 book, The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs urged rich nations to increase foreign aid to poor countries not just to end their ‘poverty trap’, but also to kick-start development. In contrast, William Easterly and Dambisa Moyo have strongly argued against aid and noted that it does more bad than good – ‘it prevents people from searching for their own solutions, while corrupting and undermining local institutions and creating a self-perpetuating lobby of aid agencies’ (Quoted in A. Banerjee and E. Duflo, Poor Economics, Public Affairs, 2011, pp. 3–4). The question here, however, is not about whether we should have aid or not; it is rather about what kind of aid we should have, how we should implement it and how aid can be made more effective in achieving its objectives. In Development Aid Confronts Politics, Thomas Carothers and Diane de Gramont heavily criticise the governance-oriented, technocratic and depoliticised approach to aid practised to date and insist instead on bringing politics to the centre of aid distribution and management.

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Exploring the history of politics in development aid, Carothers and de Gramont note that although aid was intimately related to Cold War politics, aid agencies in the formative years shied away from adopting explicitly political goals for they believed that socio-economic assistance would create domestic conditions conducive for political development and the spread of democracy. It was, however, observed that economic development, instead of bringing democratisation, ‘heightened political conflict, violence, and repression’, leading to authoritarianism (p. 29). The aid community did not have much choice: ‘[D]evelopmentalists on the ground stayed clear of “playing politics” in order to gain credibility with host governments and aid receiving societies’ (p. 50). Such apolitical and technocratic approaches to developmental planning, which often resulted in over-centralised power structures, were heavily criticised. As a result, aid organisations began to rethink their beliefs about the role of politics in the development process. Carothers and de Gramont seem happy that, today, most of the aid organisations have adopted and are actively pursuing political goals either directly with governments or indirectly with political parties and civil society organisations. Emphasising the indispensability of politics in understanding and crafting social change, the authors conclude that ‘aid programs should grow out of the local context and focus on feasible rather than best-practice solutions, that technical assistance should feed into indigenous processes of change, that projects should think about their place within the broader political systems, and that aid providers must focus closely on understanding how political and institutional change occurs’ (pp. 192–3).

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Although Derek Fee would agree with Carothers and de Gramont on how to make aid more effective, in How to Manage an Aid Exit Strategy he asks a different question: ‘why development aid is alive and kicking despite calls from both Africa (the continent demanding the highest level of aid) and donor country leaders to bring the business to a logical conclusion’ (p. xi). He further asks ‘why an activity that was supposed to be time-bound has expanded way beyond its initial remit’ (p. xi). Integrating academic knowledge and a practitioner’s experience, Fee addresses these questions quite innovatively. He argues that it is not just aid dependency that has had many negative effects, but that the aid business itself is now in crisis and cannot continue indefinitely. It is thus necessary for both donors and recipients to rethink the development aid model and devise clear exit strategies. Fee suggests several initiatives (e.g. domestic resource mobilisation, trade liberalisation, regional integration, microfinance, remittances and non-governmental organisations, and philanthropic institutions), which he believes could act as policy options for replacing development aid and making countries sustainable. He concludes that although an aid exit strategy is important, it ‘should not punish people’ who have suffered poverty and deprivation. It ‘must be applied with compassion or it will be ineffective. It must [also] be time-bound but the time given to each country should be related to their base line of aid dependency’ (p. 232).

While Carothers and de Gramont have successfully brought politics to the heart of the aid business, Fee has convincingly argued for a time-bound and compassionate aid exit strategy. Both books are filled with rich historical analysis and empirical examples and the authors exhibit immense awareness of and sensitivity to the political context. Though some may criticise these books for lacking theoretical rigour, they nonetheless represent excellent contributions to understanding the modern aid industry and the way it has evolved over time. Both books are lucidly written and well-argued and should be recommended not just to students of sociology and international relations, but also to aid practitioners, civil society activists and public policy officials.

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@ Reviewed by Sarbeswar Sahoo, Political Studies Review, Vol.12, No.3, Sept., 2014, pp.418-419.

 

Patronage as Politics in South Asia

Patronage as Politics in South Asia by Anastasia Piliavsky (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 469pp., £75.00 (h/b), ISBN 9781107056084

Anastasia Piliavsky’s Patronage as Politics in South Asia, which grew out of a colloquium held in 2011 at Kings College, Cambridge, investigates the nature and importance of patronage in the socio-historical context of South Asia. Piliavsky asks: is patronage necessarily a bad thing? What are the ways in which patronage is understood and exercised in South Asia? Most importantly, what is the relationship between patronage and democracy? Does patronage undermine or complement the functioning of democratic political order? Drawing on theoretical literature from political science and anthropology and extensive ethnographic fieldwork in South Asia, the essays in this volume argue that patronage is not necessarily always a bad thing as it is often characterised in the Western political imagination; in the South Asian context, it is an inherently plural concept, which has a contingent relationship with democracy.

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Piliavsky’s comprehensive introduction provides an extensive review of the literature on patronage politics around the world and sets the tone for the book. The sixteen essays by eminent scholars are organised under three sections: the idea of patronage, democracy as patronage, and prospects and perils of patronage. The first section looks at the nature of the patron-client relationship in South Asia. The essays in this section demonstrate how wealthy patrons use their wealth to establish religious and educational institutions to influence the lives of their clients and structure their sense of history and belonging. In the second section, the authors examine how patronage influences electoral decisions and vote bank politics. They show that patronage is not merely an instrument of exchange; it is rather a system of relationship in which patrons are expected to show their munificence through gifts, feasts, developmental provisions and bureaucratic help, and the clients reciprocate with their loyalty.

The final section discusses the perils of patronage and shows how clients (i.e. voters, migrants and subaltern masses) are trapped in a cycle of chronic bondage due to criminalised political ecologies and ineffective legislation. The essays conclude that in South Asia „“patronage” does not apply to a narrowly defined set of political relations; it encompasses the fundamental principle of social life far beyond the political‟ (p.29). „Political patronage is an expression of the broad moral sense that shapes the ways in which people relate across social levels and contexts. The essence of this moral formulation is the idea that in South Asia differences of rank do not prevent relations, but promote intimacy between parties in distinct and complementary roles‟ (pp.29-30).

Broadly, the book provides an excellent comparative ethnographic account of patronage politics in South Asia. The essays are empirically sound and theoretically sophisticated; they are also written in a lucid and coherent manner. Taken together, the essays will be immensely useful to students and scholars of anthropology, political science and South Asian Studies.

 

SARBESWAR SAHOO

Indian Institute of Technology Delhi

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© Forthcoming in Political Studies Review, Vol.14, No.3, August 2016.

Multiple Publics: Sites, Boundaries and Contestations in India

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The Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi organized a two day workshop on Multiple Publics: Sites, Boundaries and Contestations in India during 9-10 October 2010. The workshop was coordinated by Dr. Sarbeswar Sahoo and Dr. Naveen K. Thayyil. The financial support for the workshop was provided by QIP/CEP (IIT Delhi) and ICSSR (Northern Regional Centre).

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In this two day workshop, the participants discussed the multiple ways of thinking about the public. Th presenters, the discussants and the participants emphasized that we need to go beyond the Habermasian idea of public sphere to locate and theorise the public and there could multiple publics as opposed the single, homogeneous and universal public that Habermas had imagined.

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The workshop began with an introductory remark by Prof. Ravinder Kaur, the Head of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences where she emphasised the “ethnographic vantage points” in understanding the multiple and plural publics. She urged to think about publics in the context of politics and warned us on “dangerous publics”.

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Following the introductory remarks, the workshop organizers, Dr. Sarbeswar Sahoo and Dr. Naveen K. Thayyil, introduced the workshop theme to the participants. According to them, the objective of the workshop is to examine two interrelated aspects of the formations of multiple publics in contemporary India. First, we would like to examine the emergences and multiplicities of competing and contradictory publics and their role in democratic transformation of Indian society and polity. Second, in what ways do multiple discourses and strands interact with each other within specific issue-based publics? While the former provides a meta-narrative on the diversity and heterogeneous nature of public spheres in India (albeit, not as one universal sphere as Habermas imagined it to be), the latter seeks to delve into the micro-politics and complex processes of interaction, negotiation and contestation in the formation of issue-based publics in India.

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This was followed by an opening keynote address by Prof. Aditya Nigam who started the discussion by making a distinction between crowd and public. For him, the crowd is a monolithic assembly and the public is an open entity that respects differences of opinion. He then went onto discuss the idea of political society as imagined by Partha Chatterjee and asked what it means to be political. Finally, he discussed the idea of “ephemeral publics” in the context of the movement on India against corruption.

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Following the keynote address, Panel I dealt with “Boundaries and Green Publics”. Dr. Naveen Thayyil discussed the role of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the judicial process and in the formation of public sphere. The paper by Dr. Swargajyoti Gohain discussed the formation of a transnational public sphere in the context of anti-dam movements in West Arunachal Pradesh. She pointed out the global/local interaction and the transnational connections made possible through the new media and personal communication.

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Panel II discussed the theme of Religious Sphere and Publics-making. Dr. Shireen Mirza, drawing on Shia Muslim processions in the old city Hyderabad, discussed the formation of a “performative publics”. She demonstrated how the processions, symbols and landmarks have been central to the creation of community identity in Hyderabad old city. She also questioned the dichotomy between the sacred and the secular or the ethnic and the civic and argued that such distinctions get blurred in religious processions that are inherently attached to place-making. The paper by Dr. Khalid Wasim discussed how the public sphere in Kashmir has been shrinking over the last few decades and constraining the democratic political project. According to him, when the public and the political sphere get shrunk, ordinary people find alternative spaces for discussion and form public opinion. It is in this context, the sacred places such as the Mosques have emerged to provide alternative spaces for public and political discussion in Kashmir.

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Panel III revolved around the theme of Media, Mediation and Democracy in India. Dr. Taberez A. Neyazi discussed the role of media in the vernacularisation of the public sphere. He argued for a “mediated public sphere” and pointed out that media has helped mediate the diversity of voices in the vernacular arena. Given this, he advocated for a shift from representative democracy to participatory democracy to mediated democracy.

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The paper by Sindhu Manjesh discussed citizen journalism and the networked information economy in India. She also discussed the limits of the Habermasian theory in explaining the cyber-sphere and the blogosphere. In addition, she also discussed issues related to access, control, agency and representation in the media sphere in contemporary India.

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Panel IV was based on Sites of Subalternity and Science. The Paper by Dr. Sarbeswar Sahoo drew a conceptual correlation between civil society and public sphere and argued for “representational publics”. According to him, the NGOs and other civil society actors can be categorised as “representational publics” as they have come to represent the interests and rights of the marginalized groups and tried to improve their socio-economic conditions by negotiating their problems with the institutions of the state. The paper by Dr. Shiju Sam Varughese discussed the relationship between science, state and democracy through the case of Endosulfan survivors. He distinguished between elite publics, quasi publics and non-publics while discussing the techno-scientific complex in India. The last paper in this panel was by Dr. Subhasis Sahoo who discussed the popularization of science and the formation of a “scientific public sphere” in India. He also discussed the relationship between science and society and the medialization of science in Indian context.

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The closing keynote address was delivered by Prof. Sitharamam Kakarala who asked why democracy is central to public sphere. According to him, public spheres are necessary for both Habermas and Rawls who have argued for a rational-critical-discourse. Both Rawls and Habermas also discuss about the “overlapping consensus” which is the outcome of rational critical deliberative action. Prof. Kakarala also emphasized the notion of multiple publics and subaltern counter-publics and argued how Chatterjee’s idea of political society is very important to understand the processes of negotiation that occurs between the subaltern population and the institutions of state. It is in this context he introduced the concept of “mediated populism” that political society has advocated. The question is whether mediated populism is good or bad for democracy. Prof. Kakarala concludes that “populism is simultaneously capable of being extremely democratic; it also has the potential/capacity of leading to authoritarianism. Unless we take on this animal called populism, we will not be able to deal with democracy in post-colonial societies like India”.

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The workshop ended with a vote of thanks by the organizers.

Call for Papers: Modalities of Conversion in India

Convenors:

Peter Berger (University of Groningen)
Sarbeswar Sahoo (Indian Institute of Technology Delhi): <sarbeswar@hss.iitd.ac.in>

http://nomadit.co.uk/easas/ecsas2016/panels.php5?PanelID=3745

Short Abstract:

This panel seeks to examine the modalities and processes of religious conversion in India with regard to three interconnected levels: the subjective experience of the actors involved, the (inter)group dynamics and the larger political and societal contexts.

Long Abstract:

This panel seeks to examine modalities of religious conversion in India. Conversion has often been analyzed as a radical and sudden change. While this may be the case this change does not need to be abrupt but can also be gradual. Moreover, conversion does not need to be total, that means involving at the same time and to the same extend belief, practice, life-style and social relationships. It may affect only one or more of these dimensions and to a different degree at different moments in the process of conversion. The panel is not about any particular religion. Rather, the focus is on the processes of changing religious affiliations with regard to three interconnected levels: a) the subjective experience of the actors involved, b) the (inter)group dynamics and, c) the larger political and societal contexts. Pertinent questions thus are: How do these micro, meso and macro levels interact in the processes of conversion? Can we identify different aspects as being crucial in the initial phase of conversion in contrast to the period after conversion? In which way are the general political and societal contexts relevant in this regard? Does, for example, the pressure from the state to become part of the “mainstream” push communities towards changing their religious affiliation? And, do people convert because they feel inferior vis-à-vis a dominant culture or religion? Is it more a conversion toward a new religion, or rather away from an old identity? We invite proposals that explore some of these or related questions in the Indian context.

Governance and Innovation Conference, BARD Comilla

In December 2014, I participated in the International Conference on Governance and Innovation at the Bangladesh Academy of Rural Development (BARD), Comilla. BARD was established in 1959 under the initiative of the Pakistani economist Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan. It eventually became famous for its participatory approach and innovations in micro-credit and rural development in Bangladesh since the 1960s, which later came to be known as the Comilla Model of Development.

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The conference was organized by the University of Dhaka in collaboration with the GAIN network. Participants from various parts of the world presented insights on governance and innovation in their countries. The chief speaker at the conference was Professor Subrata K. Mitra from the Heidelberg University.

Professor Mitra spoke about some “essentially contested concepts”. According to him an essentially contested concept is that “which cannot be directly measured and on which there is no consensus”.

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According to Professor Mitra, governance means “rules, rule-abiding actions, and rules which are made jointly by the powerful and the powerless”. He criticized the concept of “good” governance and advocated for “multilevel” governance. For him, “multilevel governance is not just the Hobbesian state looking from the Westphalian heights with monopoly of legitimate violence but also looking down at all political arena, and wanting to combine the sovereign function of the state with the collaborative function of the state”.

18th Indian Political Economy Association Conference

The 18th Annual conference of the Indian Political Economy Association of India was held during 15-16 November at the Giri Institute of Development Studies, Lucknow.

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More than 100 papers were presented on the following themes:

(1) State, Market, Industry and Globalization
(2) Rural Society and Agrarian Change
(3) Participatory Democracy and Governance
(4) Gender, Culture and Power
(5) Development, Displacement and Violence
(6) Uttar Pradesh: Society, Economy and Politics

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In the inaugural keynote address Prof. T.S. Papola spoke about the Lucknow School of Economics and Sociology, especially the contributions of Prof. Radhakamal Mukherjee and Prof. D.P. Mukherjee. He very clearly showed how these two scholars who made important contributions to the understanding of Indian social structures and value systems, straddled between Economics and Sociology.

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Prof. Prabhat Pattnaik, retired professor of Economics at JNU, provided a very insightful lecture on political economy and what exactly it entails. He pointed out that Political Economy does not mean a mix of economics and politics; what it refers to is a specific approach to the study of society. In particular, it tries to understand the system of production, relations between various class and historical context in which all transformations occur.

Transformations of Religion and Culture in Contemporary India

The University of Groningen in collaboration with various Indian (including IIT Delhi), German and Dutch universities organized a summer school on the “Transformations of Religion and Culture in Contemporary India”. The summer school brought together a diverse group of students and teachers and discuss the various transformations that Indian society has been experiencing since the last few decades.

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The summer school had a two-fold aim. Firstly, it introduced a variety of theoretical perspectives that have been employed in order to understand and analyse such complex processes of social change and continuity in India. These general approaches and concepts can also be employed to contexts other than India. Secondly, it dealt with diverse fields in which such changes are particularly manifested:

  • citizenship, democracy and development;
  • identity, indigeneity and the publicization of religion (new media);
  • local and global discourses of health and madness;
  • nationalism, conversion and violence;
  • caste, inequality and hierarchy.

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The summer school was coordinated by Dr. Peter Berger who is the Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Culture in Asia at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Some other scholars from India (Dr. Sarbeswar SAHOO, IIT Delhi; Dr. Sobin George, ISEC Bangalore; Dr. Meera Baindur, Manipal University), Germany (Prof. Frank Heideman, Munich University; Prof. Helene Basu, the University of Münster) and the Netherlands  (Prof. Pieter Boele van Hensbroek, the University of Groningen) also joined Dr. Berger in discussing the various theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of Indian society.

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Around ten students from India, Switzerland, Germany, USA, and the Netherlands participated in the summer school. On the last day, a students’ conference was organised where we had the opportunity to listen to the excellent research work of the students.

For both students and teachers, this summer school provided an intellectual platform to critically engage with the developments in India and also build long-term scholarly networks. It was also a happy coincidence that the 400th birthday of the University of Groningen occurred during the summer school. We enjoyed the celebration and witnessed a glimpse of the proud history of the university.