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Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy

The Everyday State

Principal Investigator (PI): Shalini Randeria

Project team: Meenakshi Nair Ambujam, Amal Shahid

Timeline: 2020-21

Keywords: Democracy; State-making; South Asia; Interdisciplinary research

Funding Organisation: Swiss National Science Foundation, Scientific Exchanges

Collaborations: Conference organised in collaboration with the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, the Department of International History and the Geneva Asia Society

In the recent past, the everyday state and state-making practices have been an important theme of research in the field of South Asian Studies across the disciplines of Anthropology, History, Geography, Sociology and Political Science. This conference hopes to place these disciplines in a conversation and engage with them so as to produce a renewed understanding of the Everyday State in South Asia. It explores how the state is experienced in the everyday, through complex networks with individuals and institutions. Therefore, we not only draw attention to its coercive nature but also how it is experienced and felt by people in their “ordinary” everyday lives. By doing so, the notion of the everyday state allows us to challenge and think beyond the supposed “separation, or autonomy of street politics from larger-scale national and international political developments” (Sherman, Gould and Ansari 2014: 5).

Given the recent developments in the countries comprising of South Asia, a need to reconceptualise the Everyday State is imminent. The history and specificities of South Asia provide ample scope to investigate the distinct yet intertwined means through which colonial and post-colonial everyday state has reconstituted itself alongside the development of peculiar kinds of governmental rationality. For instance, the participants will discuss the “everyday state” in relation to (i) practices of representation and resistance (ii) caste and class (iii) materiality and infrastructure practices (iv) religion and nationalism and (v) migration and mobility. The conference will also open the scope of the discussion to incorporate newer modalities of understanding the everyday state such as the production and circulation of memes, and evolving state structures (mainly through digital practices) (vi).

The conference will provide the space to address these themes by engaging a group of highly skilled early career researchers from South Asia, the United States and Europe in an interdisciplinary debate.