Grand Tamasha

The Rural Roots of Citizenship and Democracy in India

Episode Summary

Social anthropologist Mukulika Banerjee joins Milan on Grand Tamasha to explain how rural life in India creates democratic values, popular misconceptions about agriculture, and the evolution of Bengali politics and regional illiberalism.

Episode Notes

For more than fifteen years, the scholar Mukulika Banerjee has been deeply embedded in the social and political life of two villages in the state of West Bengal—studying developments there, both during elections and between them. Her new book, “Cultivating Democracy: Politics and Citizenship in Agrarian India,” is a deeply researched study of Indian democracy that shows how agrarian life creates values of citizenship and active engagement that are essential for the cultivation of democracy. 

Mukulika Banerjee is an associate professor in social anthropology at the London School of Economics, and she joins Milan on the podcast this week to discuss the importance of India’s status as a “republic,” what B.R. Ambedkar got wrong about rural life, and popular misconceptions about agriculture. Plus, the two discuss the evolution of Bengali politics and the regional roots of illiberalism. 

  1. Mukulika Banerjee, “Elections as Communitas,” Social Research, Spring 2011. 
  2. Mukulika Banerjee, “A small ‘feastie’ in a Republic’s anniversary,” Indian Express, January 26, 2020. 
  3. Pradeep K. Chhibber and Amit Ahuja, “Why the Poor Vote in India: 'If I Don't Vote, I Am Dead to the State,’” Studies in International Comparative Development, 2012. 
  4. Christophe Jaffrelot, “Narendra Modi and India's New Political System,” Grand Tamasha, October 5, 2021.