South Asia

Organized Panel Session

Rights and the State in Indian Political Thought

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Juniper, New Building

From its founding, Indian democracy has had a tumultuous relationship with discourses of rights and the law. On one hand, civil rights have been a source of empowerment, providing conceptual and strategic tools to make demands on political institutions and resist state violence. On the other hand, the language of rights is embedded in liberal ideas disconnected from the conceptual vocabularies and empirical realities of Indian politics. Social scientists influenced by postcolonial studies have been especially influential in underlining how the Western and colonial heritage of legal rights in South Asia has rendered them insufficient for addressing the concerns of large sections of the polity.


How might we relate the genealogies of rights in postcolonial India in comparison to the global north and to other Asian experiences? What can articulations of rights in India tell us about the nature of the state and democracy in South Asia and its similarity or divergence from Western models? These are critical questions for a wide range of scholars in the social sciences interested in state-formation, democracy, and citizenship in Asia.


The panel examines different choreographies in which Indian citizens have related to rights and state sovereignty in three different periods. Addressing the politics of socio-economic rights during India’s constitutional founding in the 1940s, of fact-finding in civil rights documentation in the 1970s, and of minority rights under contemporary conditions of majoritarian domination, the panel’s three papers trace both the reach and the limitations of rights discourse within Indian democracy.


 

Ankita Pandey

Oxford University, United Kingdom

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Tejas Parasher

University of Chicago, United States

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Sudipta Kaviraj

Columbia University, United States

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Ankita Pandey

Oxford University, United Kingdom

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Tejas Parasher

University of Chicago, United States

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Vatsal Naresh

Yale University, United States

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