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A. Nilsen, K. Nielsen, A. Vaidya, eds.

Indian Democracy

Origins, Trajectories, Contestations

Pluto Press 2019

New Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in PoliticsNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in South Asian StudiesNew Books Network June 14, 2019 Madhuri Karak

More than 70 years after its founding, with Narendra Modi’s authoritarian Hindu nationalists in government, is the dream of Indian democracy still alive and...

More than 70 years after its founding, with Narendra Modi’s authoritarian Hindu nationalists in government, is the dream of Indian democracy still alive and well? Indian Democracy: Origins, Trajectories, Contestations (Pluto Press, 2019), a prescient collection of essays, dialogues and commentary from scholars, activists and journalists, tries to come up with answers.

India’s pluralism has always posed a formidable challenge to its democracy, with many believing that a clash of identities based on region, language, caste, religion, ethnicity and tribe would bring about its demise. With the meteoric rise to power of the Bharatiya Janata Party, its solidity is once again called into question: is Modi’s Hindu majoritarianism an anti-democratic attempt to transform India into a monolithic Hindu nation from which minorities and dissidents are forcibly excluded?

With examinations of the way that class and caste power shaped the making of India’s postcolonial democracy, the role of feminism, the media, and the public sphere in sustaining and challenging democracy, this book interrogates the contradictions at the heart of the Indian democratic project, examining its origins, trajectories and contestations.

Alf Gunvald Nilsen is Professor of Sociology at University of Pretoria. He is the author of Dispossession and Resistance in India: The River and the Rage (Routledge, 2010), We Make Our Own History: Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism (Pluto Press, 2014), and Adivasis and the State: Subalternity and Citizenship in India’s Bhil Heartland(Cambridge University Press, 2018).

Kenneth Bo Nielsen is Associate Professor in the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages at the University of Oslo. He is the author of Land Dispossession and Everyday Politics in Rural Eastern India (Anthem Press, 2018), and the co-editor of several books on Indian society and politics.

Anand Vaidya is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Reed College.


Madhuri Karak holds a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from The Graduate Center, City University of New York. She tweets @madhurikarak and more of her work can be found here.