Paperwork, patronage and citizenship: the materiality of everyday interactions with bureaucracy in Tamil Nadu, India

Carswell, Grace and De Neve, Geert (2020) Paperwork, patronage and citizenship: the materiality of everyday interactions with bureaucracy in Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 26 (3). pp. 495-514. ISSN 1359-0987

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Abstract

This article explores the material practices through which lower‐caste and poor villagers engage with bureaucracy in contemporary India. We take documents and paperwork – such as ration cards and community certificates – as a ‘lens’ through which to explore how paper materiality is infused with the politics of power, patronage, and identity. The article brings ethnography from rural Tamil Nadu, South India, in conversation with two bodies of literature: one on the materiality of bureaucracy and one on the nature of political mediation in contemporary India. We demonstrate how everyday engagements with paperwork as well as processes of applying, form filling, and securing recommendations are constitutive of social and political relationships and, ultimately, of citizenship itself. Political mediation around paperwork and bureaucracy generates a hierarchy of citizens rather than equal citizenship for all, yet ordinary villagers transpire as anything but passive. Drawing on patronage networks, engaging in affective performances, and navigating a politics of identity, they actively negotiate access to the state in an attempt to claim their rights as citizens.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
School of Global Studies > Geography
School of Global Studies > International Development
Depositing User: Sharon Krummel
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2019 08:41
Last Modified: 18 Sep 2020 14:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/88204

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