Politics and International Relations
Leading up to the 2018 Dehradun Municipal elections in India, women party workers were anxious and angry. Having devoted years to political activities, many feared that their parties would not give them the party ticket to contest the election. The usual scholarly frame to examine such examples of women's under-representation in political office is that of exclusion. In this paper I take a different approach, revealing the ways women are not excluded, but rather incorporated into party political structures under adverse terms.
Through this exploratory approach, this paper makes two contributions to understandings of women in politics. First, it draws attention to the invisible forms of political labour that women perform on a day-to-day basis. Women party workers and local level representatives are engaged in daily activities to serve and build the good will of constituents, and to increase the party following. This political labour is often affective, and involves the engendering of emotions such as gratitude, a sense of obligation and outrage, which translate into support for the party or individual. Second, I apply the framework of 'adverse incorporation' (Hickey and du Toit 2007) to the realm of party politics to reveal the ways this political labour generates power, and the processes of accumulation, appropriation and dispossession. I argue that women in India are dispossessed of the fruits (or surplus value) of their political labour, which are appropriated for the accumulation strategies of male political elites. This adverse incorporation, as much as exclusion, helps explains women's political under-representation.