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South Asia Without Borders Seminar

Dr Anastasia Piliavsky, Fellow and Director of Studies in Social Anthropology at Girton College, Cambridge; Director of Studies in Social Anthropology at Newnham College, Cambridge; Newton-Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, CRASSH, Cambridge

Chair: Ajantha Subramanian, Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Harvard University

It is the central article of faith in Western political theory that democracy is an inherently egalitarian form. But in northern India democracy is decidedly hierarchical, both in practice and in local normative imagination. People look to hierarchical relations with politicians as a source of political responsibility, as the lever they use to get politicians to do what they wish to be done. Far from disempowering and humiliating, here voters see hierarchical ties of dependency as their chief political resource. Grasping the ‘vertical’ dimension of India’s democracy helps us not only to better understand the country’s politics, but also to rethink some of our deepest convictions about democracy, anywhere in the world.

*Please note the date and location change.