South Asia Institute
South Asia Institute

Fall 2011

bureaucracy through south asia

Bureaucracy Through South Asia

Sept. 30th - Oct. 1st

download poster (PDF 344 KB)

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 a depoliticizing 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 dire state of a segment of the Indian population through the banality of paperwork.  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.  For more information, see the conference schedule below.

Friday, 12:00 noon (Meyerson WCH 4.118): Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in India*

A Roundtable discussion of Akhil Gupta's work lead by Kamala Visweswaran, Lok Siu, Barbara Harlow and Heather Hindman of the University of Texas at Austin

*People who would like to attend the round table should RSVP to to receive the paper.

3:30 pm (Avaya ACE 2.302): Keynote: The State in India After Liberalization: The Declining Power of Bureaucracy and the Rise of Service-Sector Capitalism

Akhil Gupta, UCLA

Saturday, 9:30 am (Meyerson WCH 4.118): Coffee and Welcome

10:00: Cultural Streamlining in Indian IT Multinationals

Smitha Radhakrishnan, Wellesley College

Chair, Heather Hindman, UT

Discussant, Sharmila Rudrappa, UT

12:00: Lunch

1:00: Paper, Databases, and the Ontology of Land Holdings in South Asia

Matthew Hull, University of Michigan

Chair, Jennifer Bussell, UT

Discussant, Tahir Naqvi, Trinity University

3:00: Break

3:30: The Indian Ocean Contexts of the City - Corporation: Dubai and Singapore

Ahmed Kanna, University of the Pacific

Chair, Kamran Ali, UT

Discussant, Neha Vora, Texas A&M

5:30: Wrap up general discussion