Department of Anthropology

Akhil Gupta: The State in India After Liberalization

Fri, September 30, 2011 | ACE 2.302

3:30 PM - 5:15 PM

"The State in India After Liberalization: The Declining Power of Bureaucracy and the Rise of Service-Sector Capitalism" by Dr. Akhil Gupta of UCLA.

Keynote talk for the Bureaucracy Through South Asia Conference.

Bureaucracy in South Asia has been a source of humor, post-colonial resentment, and contemporary political activism. The campaign of Anna Hazare and launch of India's identification number project suggests that bureaucracy shows no signs of declining in importance to people in the subcontinent. This conference looks at the effects of bureaucracy as adepoliticizing force, its ability to shape everyday lives and render political choices technical. Processes of power implemented by governments and private sector entities are frequently stripped any claim of agency in favor of "best practices" or efficiency. Presenters at the conference observe particular situations where bureaucracy is transforming life and unpack the processes and choices behind these reams of paperwork. One of the presumed values of bureaucracy is its transportability and translatability, and thus one of the central themes of this conference is the reach of regulation and audit cultures across national borders.

Through his research on development and agricultural practices, Akhil Gupta was an early advocate of the need for scholars to take bureaucracy seriously, and to consider the conflict between global regulation and local contexts in order to explore the unevenness of regulatory apparatuses and the friction that occurs as, for example, power and paperwork flow from transnational entities to state governments and eventually to the practices of farmers. Dr. Gupta has continued this theme in his recent research on the structural violence of bureaucracy in India and the occlusion of poverty (or even its perpetuation) by state forces that are able to cloak the direstate of a segment of the Indian population through the banality ofpaperwork. Other participants in the conference will be examining Indian multinationals and cultural training, debates over land rights and titles in Pakistan, and South Asian migration to Dubai during the period of economic deceleration in the Gulf region.

Sponsored by the South Asia Institute.

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