About this Project

As India has marked the seventieth year of its independence in 2017, its politics have become an ever more important object of study for scholars in the humanities and social sciences. Indian democracy has long been considered an exceptional case—an unlikely political system for a society marked by high levels of inequality and remarkable fragmentation and diversity. But despite all misgivings, India’s democracy has deepened, broadened, and transformed over the past seven decades, often in ways that belie standard assumptions about the nature and trajectory of democratic politics. Analyzing the meanings and practices of democracy in India therefore offers an important opportunity to rethink key concepts and categories like statehood, popular sovereignty, constitutionalism, and citizenship. Such analysis allows for new accounts of India’s own politics and history and, more broadly, helps us understand the different forms that democracy can take outside of Western Europe and North America. “Theorizing Indian Democracy” will initiate a conversation on this topic by bringing together an interdisciplinary team of humanists and social scientists from India, the United States, and Europe. The project will consist of four events: “Democratic Theory in India,” on November 8-9, 2018; “Empire and Political Thought: A Retrospective,” a roundtable on February 21, 2019; “India in Global Intellectual History,” on April 12, 2019 (co-sponsored with the Franke Institute for the Humanities); and “Democracy after Empire: Perspectives from South Asia,” on April 17, 2019.

Image: Indian voters gather in Maharashtra to show their support for the Congress Party, April 26, 2009. Photo courtesy Al Jazeera English via Flickr.


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