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Postcolonial Democracy: Perspectives from South Asia


Event Summary

IMAGE: Noor Hossain protests against the rule of General Hussain Muhammad Ershad (Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 1987). Via Wikimedia Commons.

Behind triumphalist narratives about the global reach and success of democracy after 1945 and the Cold War is a more complex story about the unsettled meaning of “democracy” itself, as an idea and as political practice. Modern mass democracy in postcolonial Asia, Africa, and Latin America has often taken forms that belie Euro-American assumptions about the nature of democratic politics. Participants at this event, sponsored by the Theorizing Indian Democracy research project at the Neubauer Collegium, used the South Asian experience with constitutionalism, citizenship, and popular protest to investigate how we might write historical and theoretical accounts of democracy from the Global South, taking into account the distinctive historical experiences of postcolonial states. The event was structured as a roundtable discussion with the authors of three new books on democracy in South Asia.


Rohit De (Yale University), author of A People’s Constitution: Law and Everyday Life in the Indian Republic (Princeton, 2018)

Ornit Shani (University of Haifa), author of How India Became Democratic: Citizenship and the Making of the Universal Franchise (Cambridge, 2018)

Nusrat Chowdhury (Amherst College), author of Paradoxes of the Popular: Crowd Politics in Bangladesh (Stanford, 2019)


William Mazzarella (University of Chicago)