Politics in India – Seminar – Fall 2010

This seminar will present Indian politics in a comparative and theoretical framework.   It will focus on four themes: British India and Indian Nationalism; India’s democratic experience: politics of ethnic and religious diversity; and political economy. The rationale for these four themes is as follows. First, British rule in India (1757-1947) is a natural beginning, if one wishes to understand modern India. A great deal of what happened in post-1947 India was linked to, if not caused by, developments in the British period.  Second, India’s democracy, lasting since 1947 (with the exception of 18 months), has posed new puzzles for democratic theory.  According to theory, India, a poor and primarily agricultural land, should not have been democratic for so long.  Third, remarkable cultural, ethnic and religious diversity exists in the country.  Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and Buddhism are the five major religions.  More than fifteen languages are spoken in the country.  In addition, Hindu society has major caste cleavages. Democratic politics has wrestled with such diversities in a way that has historically attracted a lot of attention and enriched theories of modernity, ethnic conflict and social justice.  Fourth, Indian economy has begun to boom, and growth rates have been second only to China’s.  The idea of China and India as economic powers of the coming decades is now commonly proposed in corporate, government and journalistic circles. The politics of the ongoing economic transformation needs to be understood to assess future trajectories