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Indian Democracy in Motion

Housed in Ashoka University, an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research university with a focus on liberal arts, this seminar will cover how the Indian democratic experience is unsettling identities, unleashing new forms of mobilization and transforming the meaning of citizenship as Indians experience it.

Indian Democracy in Motion
The Swani Family Global Seminar
Ashoka University, Sonipat

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, vice chancellor, Ashoka University

Many political scientists have described India as an “unlikely democracy.” As Tocqueville argued, democracy, in principle, transforms all the other social forms it touches, from religion to intermediate associations.

This seminar will examine the ways in which the workings of Indian democracy have shaped and transformed the meaning of five institutional formations: constitutionalism, religion, the economy, caste and the city. The aim is not to provide a conventional or comprehensive overview of Indian democracy; rather, it is to provide snapshots into the ways in which the Indian democratic experience is unsettling identities, unleashing new forms of mobilization, and, in the process, transforming the meaning of citizenship as Indians experience it.

Weekly excursions within and around Delhi will include sites that are the focus of new forms of religious mobilization, a gram sabha (to experience the workings of village democracy) and, possibly, the Supreme Court of India, as well as an immersive field visit to explore democracy and the politics of slum redevelopment. Two weekend trips — one to Agra and the Taj Mahal, and another to the Himalayan foothills in the north — will complement the academic program.

This seminar fulfills the Social Analysis (SA) general education requirement.