In Hailing the State, Lisa Mitchell explores the methods of collective assembly that people in India use to hold elected officials and government administrators accountable, demand inclusion in decision making, and stage informal referendums.
Mitchell traces the colonial and postcolonial lineages of collective forms of assembly, in which – rather than rejecting state authority – participants mobilize with expectations that officials will uphold the law and fulfil electoral promises. She shows how assembly, which ranges from sit-ins, hunger strikes, and demands for meetings with officials to massive general strikes and road and rail blockades, is fundamental to the functioning of democracy in India. These techniques are particularly useful for historically marginalized groups and others whose voices may not be easily heard.
Moving beyond an exclusive focus on electoral processes, Mitchell argues that to understand democracy – in India and beyond – we must also pay attention to what occurs between elections, thereby revising understanding of what is possible for democratic action around the world.
Lisa Mitchell is Professor of History and Anthropology in the Department of South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Language, Emotion, and Politics in South India: The Making of a Mother Tongue (Permanent Black, 2010).
“. . . [this] intensively researched and impressively perceptive book shows something of fundamental importance about the reality of India’s democracy that has escaped any previous interpreter: just how actively and inventively it is realized through the energies of its own citizens” — John Dunn
“. . . asks us to think beyond collective action as ‘resistance’ and to consider instead the ways in which such action seeks to elicit recognition from and access to the state . . . offers an alternative perspective on the relationship between popular action in the streets, electoral politics, and state authority” — Sherry B. Ortner
“. . . a richly textured and theoretically nuanced study of how democracy is practised in those long stretches between elections, the stretches that are arguably the most important aspect of how ordinary people participate . . .” — Ajay Skaria