Performative Production of the State in India

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Akhil Gupta has this article titled ‘Blurred Boundaries: The Discourse of Corruption, the Culture of Politics and the
Imagined
State’ in Zoya Hasan edited book Politics and the State in India (Sage,
New Delhi, 2000). In this article he examines the way people construct the state through various practices including corruption. I found this article extremely interesting as it couples solid field work with fine theorization. The very idea of viewing how people imagine the state into being performatively is great. His is a nuanced reading of his field work data which attends to local history, culture, social set up as well as resonances of relationships. I think it is important to not see corruption as the same everywhere and always (it wont lead us anywhere). There is much sense in following Gupta’s approach and study the performative production of corruption, state, and the relation between state and subjects. If your interest includes state, corruption, performativism, any or all of these, I think you would find Gupta’s article interesting.

An excerpt: “At the local level it becomes difficult to experience the state as an ontically coherent entity: what one confronts instead is much more discrete and fragmentary… it is precisely through the practices of such local institutions that a translocal institution such as the state comes to be imagined.”

Akhil Gupta points out that western categories of civil society and state as well as private citizen and public servant become inadequate to describe the lived realities in India as one finds boundaries being blurred such that the function of public servant need not transpire only in the rationalizes locations of the offices; and the interaction between the civil society and state may continuously be revised on the basis of various factors.

I have only picked a few bits of the many fine ideas to be found in this article. Check it out, folks.

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