Chicagoist

I have been reading the Gothamist for absolutely no reason [i don’t live in NY, duh] but I like the blog and always thought that there should be a Chicago version. Now, Kottke tells us that there is a Beta version out for Chicago called Chicagoist! And they even like History!!
The name, however, is not good and does not conform to the template. Gotham is not NY’s name. How about WindyCitist? BigShoulderist? SecondCityist? Loopist? EList? StuffedPizzaist? Bluesist?
And Gerry wins the Name Game with The DaleyistÆ
Anyways, looking forward to this one.

Peculiarities of Indian Democracy

As Ananya exclaimed upon seeing the taped up paper sign, “Indeed!”. I spend this, rather gorgeous, Saturday in a large assembly room in Classics listening to Arjun Appadurai, Uday Mehta, Dipesh Chakrabarty and Sudipta Kaviraj talk about various theoretical models for understanding the peculiar thing that is Indian Democracy. Of course, the cheer of the Election results illuminated every speaker. This conference, a brain-child of Sudipta Kaviraj, was intended for these various scholars to demonstrate ways in which Indian democracy differs from the western liberal democracy formats. And the fact that after a rather gruesome stretch in the 90s, Indian democracy had, once again, turned around to the left was tickling the old marxists red [i’ll stop now]. The papers were extremely engaging and, surprisingly, on the theme. I have been to so many panels and presentations where only one or two papers even have anything in common, let alone a theme. However, these gentlemen [severe gender gap here] not only spoke to the theme but they did it in a clear manner. Speaking about a democracy that is 670 million strong (that is larger than the electorates of Japan, Western Europe and North America COMBINED!) is not easy. And summarizing that is even harder. However, let me try. All of the speakers were in conversation with the European Liberal Democracy tradition and were showing ways in which that tradition either falls short or completely fails in theoritizing the Indian case. The prime culprit seems to be modernity itself. That is, if one starts the examination from the point of view of that modernity spread out of Europe to create mini-modernities everywhere than one will start to point “failures” and “faults” in the modernities and democracies of the ex-colonies. However, if one resists that urge and is open to multiplicities of modernity then, one can emphasize differences without having them turn into deficiencies.
The most salient difference between Indian and Western Liberal Democracies is the conceptualization of group rights vs. individual rights. As Uday Mehta, nailed it, by quoting from the preamble to the Right to Freedom section of the Indian Constitution the clause:

(4) Nothing in sub-clause (c) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of [the sovereignty and integrity of India or] public order or morality, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause[emphasis added]

That is, the rights of the group trump the rights of the individual. Hence, political mobilization in India turns on slights to groups rather than plights of the individual.
Continue reading “Peculiarities of Indian Democracy”

Pink Elephants Away

The presentation is over. I am not the draw I imagined myself to be. Dipesh was not there to hear my dig on subaltern studies. All the better, as he probably would have thrown me out of the program. Nah! he is too nice for that. Anyways, had minimal required audience but they seemed to take my radical theories with composure. No one fell asleep. No hard questions.
I managed to flub only a few words.
I am so relieved. I can concentrate on finishing up the quarter and maybe think seriously about finding a publisher who can handle authors with fatwas against them.
While my plight is over, a bunch of good people are coming up for their dissertation defenses. I will keep you posted. Also, this weekend is the Peculiarities of Indian Democracy conference with presentations by Sudipta Kaviraj, Arjun Appadurai, Dipesh Chakrabarty and Uday Mehta. Looking forward to that All-Star cast.

Memory matters

This is hell week. Teaching today and thursday (lecture currently missing [i really hope no prospective employers ever read this blog and wise up to my shenanigans]); some html and virii viruses madness at work; and most of all a stack of books sky high on all desks around me. The reason is that I have to present at the Theory and Practice in South Asia Workshop on Thursday after my class. The title of the talk is Contesting History: The Memory of Muhammad b. Qasim in Sindh. Last night, I spend cuddling up with Pierre Nora and Maurice Halbwachs. Let me just say that these French love to gab. I am little apprehensive but that’s ok. I will survive.
It does mean that I see pink elephants everywhere (memory=pink elephants).
So, expect little of me this week.
Instead, go learn how the world works at They Rule 2004: an excellent flash mapping program based on SEC filings of major corporations in the USA.
Also, Thursday, we will have the election in India concluded. Things are looking up for Congress but I have a feeling that Vajpayee led NDA will prevail. So, keep an eye on that one.