Saturday, 15 October 2011


The first batch of the conference working papers are out. You can access them at

The links to individual papers are as below.

Institutional Dimensions of Social Movements: Case Study of the Sanitario Movement and its Fight for Universal Access to Health in Brazil.
Monika Dowbor (University of Sao Paulo).

The Institutionalisation of ‘Noise’ and ‘Silence’ in Urban Politics: Case Studies from East Africa. Tom Goodfellow (London School of Economics and Political Science).

Hybridity in Action: Translating Culture and Power Through the Human Rights Discourse.
Máire Ní Mhórdha (University of St Andrews).

Civil-society Building, ‘Advanced Liberal’ Governmentality and the State in Serbia. Marek Mikuš (London School of Economics and Political Science).

Coping with Strangers in Africa: Tourism, Politics and Development in South-Western Ethiopia. Tamás Régi (University of Sheffield/Sheffield International College).

The Micro-foundations of One-party Hegemony: Development and Clientelism. Aris Trantidis (London School of Economics and Political Science).

'Everything Changed after the 26th': Repression and Resilience against Proposed Phulbari Coal Mine in Bangladesh. Samina Luthfa (Department of Sociology, University of Oxford).

Sunday, 14 August 2011



Democracy, Governance and Development:

Between the Institutional and the Political

June 27 & 28, 2011

Oxford Department of International Development

(Seminar Room 2)

3, Mansfeld Road

Oxford OX1 3TB


Indrajit Roy

D Phil Candidate

St Antonys College/ Oxford Department of International Development

University of Oxford

Sponsored by:
Oxford Department of International Development

St Antonys College

Negotiating development: Nepalese Community Forest User Groups’ resistance and compromise during the Maoist conflict

Byrne, Sarah. University of Zurich

This paper explores how relationships between community forest user groups and the Nepalese state and Maoist movement were constituted, maintained and negotiated in order to fulfill the group‘s long-term development goals. Community forest user groups were among the few local governance institutions that remained effectively functioning throughout the ten-year civil conflict. This resilience has been attributed to their institutional set-up and the tactics used by the groups (Nightingale and Sharma 2011). In this paper, I seek to build on these insights and suggest that rather than (or in addition to) simply coping within the violently contested political environment, some community forest user groups continued to pursue their longer term objectives related to forest management and local development and negotiated this successfully with the conflicting parties. In the interest of maintaining their access to forest resources, community forest user groups employed a variety of strategies and practices. In this paper I consider whether these strategies and practices – and the power dynamics their employment illuminates – can be considered as resistance or compromise. The paper contributes to our understanding of the functioning of local participatory institutions and how they interact, in a situation of violent conflict and insecurity, with the governmental, economic and political projects (Li 2003) of the state as well as a large-scale political and social movements.

Das, Debojyoti. University of London/ School of Oriental and African Studies

In this paper I discuss how changes in farming practices introduced by transnational donor driven agricultural improvement programme are understood both by village beneficiaries and the project officials through the discourse of ‘representation’ and farmers ‘agency’- as beneficiaries in various GONGO (Government Organized Non-Government Organization) operated community development programmes. I locate my study among the Naga tribal’s in the upland areas of Northeast India (Naga Hills) that has attracted much scholarly attention in the last decade as a transnational upland massif ‘Zomia’ (Scott, 2009), and a ‘biodiversity hotspot’ region of the Eastern Himalayas (Myers et al., 2000). This is evident from global interest of donors and conservation NGOs in the region, who work to bring about improvement by integrating ‘communities social capital’ with ‘Indigenous Ecological Knowledge’ of the swidden (jhum) cultivators. By engaging with the project text and communities response to particular development intervention- in this case ‘micro-credit’ circulated through Revolving Fund, I demonstrate the moral economy of households and the micro-politics of everyday life through which the state becomes legible in people’s lives. The study is based on participant observation (ethnographic fieldwork carried over fourteen months in a Naga Village) and reflects on households respond to community let development interventions designed by ‘experts’- government planners working to promote sustainable agriculture in Naga Hills.

The case of the 2006 pingüino movement and education

Donoso, Sofia. University of Oxford/ St. Antony’s College

The paper seeks to contribute to the debate of the repolitization of specific policy areas by analysing the case of the Pingüino movement in Chile. Composed by secondary school students and named after their penguin-like black and white school uniforms, the movement emerged in May 2006, only a few weeks after the ascension of President Bachelet who had based her campaign on a bottom-up discourse. Demanding to improve the quality of education and correct for the segregating effects of the education system, the movement forced the most significant debate on education since the re-establishment of democracy in 1990. Based on the case study of the Pingüinos, I argue that pressures from below can provide an important incentive to pursue reforms that have failed to be promoted from above. This way, social movements can constitute a central impulse to redefine the political agenda along the interests of civil society actors and through this, constitute a democratising force.

Institutional dimensions of social movements: case study of the sanitario movement and its fight for universal access to health in Brazil

Dowbor, Monika. University of Sao Paulo

The present article addresses the debate with social movement theory and, more specifically, with its propositions concerning institutionalization (Tilly & Tarrow 2007; Goldstone 2003; Tarrow 1998; McAdam 1996), emphasizing the theory’s incapacity to explain the continuity of the sanitario movement, which, since the 1970s, has fought for universal access to public health care in Brazil. Comprising networks of professionals, academics and intellectuals, this movement campaigns in an institutionalized way and has swiftly bureaucratized and professionalized its organizations. Despite these two institutionalized elements, the movement has neither demobilized not transformed into a political party or interest group, as the theory would predict. Quite the contrary, in fact, this is the most mobilized of all social movements of a national character in the health sector in Brazil.

Frodin, Olle. Lund University/ University of Oxford (QEH)

In the wake of globalization the last few decades different social science disciplines have found themselves entering into similar terrains of inquiry. However, each discipline tends to draw on different and often contradictory understandings of the political, and of related notions such as power. The lack of a shared notion of politics may prevent social scientists from gaining important insights from other disciplines. In this paper I therefore seek to demonstrate that seemingly contradictory notions of politics are better seen as different forms of political interaction. I define politics as activities through which people and groups articulate, negotiate, implement, and enforce competing claims. By distinguishing different types of claims made within different institutional circumstances, I outline three basic forms of political interaction: governance, stalemate and social dilemma, and give examples of how each of these forms of political interaction has emerged in response to the global integration of markets in different circumstances and areas of the world.

Suing dragons: why are Chinese lawyers suing the state

Givens, JW. University of Oxford/ St Antony’s College

Goodfellow, Tom. University of London/ London School of Economics and Political Science

 Africa’s rapidly-expanding cities tend increasingly to be sites of political opposition, as well as incubators of social and institutional development. This paper draws on a comparative study of politics in the capital cities of Rwanda and Uganda, exploring the contrasting ways in which forms of popular ‘participation’ in urban affairs are institutionalised through informal political processes. It analyses how in Kampala the regular mobilisation of urban social and economic groups into protests and violent riots has institutionalised a politics of ‘noise’, while in Kigali, city-dwellers partake in structured activities and form ‘self-policing’ communities through processes that are equally political but comparatively ‘silent’. The paper explains the persistence of differential patterns of state-society interaction in these cases by considering the incentives for both governmental and urban social actors to continue adhering to existing norms. It thus explores mechanisms of localised ‘path dependence’, through which informal institutions become self-reinforcing in particular contexts.

Kutarna, Christopher. University of Oxford/ St. Antony’s College

This paper is about subjectivity. I define it; I discuss how important it is to Chinese statecraft. I give reasons to hypothesize (but little direct evidence1) that popular views toward political modernity are much more diverse than is often supposed in the literature. The Party-state continues to work to fix public meaning-making of modernity to be consistent with its leadership agenda, but that work is harder now. I argue that we need to understand these subjective realms better. We should spend more time watching the contest to interpret the concepts at the centre of political modernity—concepts like democracy. We should try to understand better how the ideas being debated relate to, support and oppose one another in their various interpretations. I share my guesses on how we’ve ended up at the ‘pragmatism hypothesis’ (i.e., that the Chinese majority imagines a trade-off of political liberalization in exchange for a stable, secure environment in which to expand their wealth further) and I reject it. I argue it is a safer, more conservative (and probably more correct) path to hypothesize a plurality of mainstream viewpoints and pay much more careful attention to the ideational confusions we find amidst this ‘pragmatic’ population. I believe within that subjective variety lies a deeper understanding of the legitimacy challenges the Party-state model faces and the possible pathways of a uniquely Chinese political future.

Luthfa, Samina. University of Oxford/ St Cross College

Impact of repression on follow up protests is an area in social movement literature shadowed with contradictory findings. Whether any repression would result in a ‘backlash’ that increases protests instead of dampening it - is difficult to support or refute, due to the availability of findings that supports both effect. By exploring the aftermath of violent repression of a community resistance against an open cast coal mine in Bangladesh, this paper supports ‘backlash’ under certain conditions. The case illustrates that even after the violence, the community did not refrain from ‘costly’ high-risk protest behaviours. This paper provides two explanations basing its analytical construct on transversal politics: first, emotional stimuli over-shadowed costs of high-risk behaviours. Second, after being violated; it becomes part of each protestor’s community identity to stay together and keep protest alive. By using qualitative interviews of activists and company beneficiaries, and archival research including campaign documents, newspaper articles, government and company documents, I illustrate how after the violent repression community’s worldview and their perspective on their politics shifted to suit the need for unity and resilience.

Mhórdha, Máire Ní / University of St Andrews

Mikuš, Marek. University of London/ London School of Economics and Political Science

The democratisation of governance in postsocialist Eastern Europe has been associated with civil-society building through international development initiatives. Anthropologists criticised it as ʻNGOisation ʼ and building of a ʻproject societyʼ. This paper deals with latest stages of civil-society building in Serbia, typified by the development of ʻpublic advocacyʼ and ʻlocal fundraisingʼ. In my anthropological work-in- progress, I study public advocacy and local fundraising programs of the Balkan Community Initiatives Fund, a Belgrade re-granting foundation, and its grantee organizations in Serbia. These initiatives introduce ʻadvanced liberalʼ governmentality to Serbia which constructs relationships of civil society and ʻpolitical societyʼ (the state and political organizations) in a depoliticised manner consistent with the assumptions of good governance and New Public Management. Taking my cues from the polity approach, governmentality theory and anthropology of the state and postsocialism, I subject practices and discourses of advanced liberal governmentality to a political analysis. I show how civil society interacts with the state when being ʻdevelopedʼ in a context with its own history of thinking and practicing civil society. I argue that studying public advocacy and local fundraising necessitates going beyond (civil) society/state binaries and analyzing how state and civil-society actors, as well as individuals, informal networks and companies, form (or fail to form) political alliances in order to perform governance. These processes, not devoid of transformative potential, are ridden with paradoxes inherent to the multilayered legacy of past forms of rule as well as to the advanced liberal governmentality itself.

Naqvi, Ijlal. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

 This paper explores how institutions and culture shape state service delivery in the Global South. Institutions, understood in the Northian (1990) sense as rules of the game, are too often considered only in terms of their formal or written qualities. Through an ethnographic study of the electricity utility in Islamabad, Pakistan, I examine how the written rules of service delivery are only one influence on the rules of the game, which are also shaped by culture, and the underlying power relations in Pakistani society. I argue that the rules of the game are mutually constituted by codified rules and the cultural repertoires through which they are enacted.

Régi, Tamás. University of Sheffield/ Sheffield International College

According to a report, made for the UK Department for International Development: “among the top 40 recipients of DFID bilateral aid, tourism is significant” (DFID 1999, p.9). However, while the tourism sector increasingly contributes to most developing countries’ GDP it does not necessarily mean that international tourists also foster microeconomic stability. Local perceptions of tourism and development often alter from the supra regional political and economic views. This paper explores how tourism, as a new source of wealth, is perceived in a small scale localised community and how Western tourists generate new supra-local political movements in an East-African pastoral society. The paper discusses how relatively new forms of contacts give ground to emerging political institutions that begin as tentative interest groups and become protagonists in local politics.

The paper analyses a process that I documented during a one year long anthropological fieldwork in a local-alien contact zone, wherein daily encounters challenged local groups’ decision making processes, compel them to form new allies, cooperate and collaborate in a different way that they practiced before. In my description I follow up the process of how local people invent political roles and institutions in order to communicate with outsiders. Moreover I also describe how the local population construct a political surface that can accommodate daily contacts with aliens who arrive to visit the local people in the name if development. However these newly invented political identities also serve as a strong resistance shield towards the outside world.

Peter Redvers-Lee. Vanderbilt University, USA

Dissensus: politicizing the capable subject

Roy, Indrajit. University of Oxford/ St. Antony’s College

Calls to revisit the focus of justice have led to attention being drawn towards the notion of human capabilities. Amartya Sen refers to capabilities as constituting the materials of justice. He understands capabilities to be the substantive opportunities available to individuals to be and do what they value and have reason to value. However, this conception of capabilities have been sometimes critiqued for not explicating issues of power and politics. To the extent that the vast corpus of his work on famines, hunger and malnutrition, and on India deal with governance, institutions and the policy- framework, this critique appears somewhat misplaced. On the other hand, the criticism is certainly valid if one were to consider the subject of the Capability Approach- that is, if one were to ask questions such as: what kind of „being does Sens approach envisage? What is the identity of these beings? What is their habitus? How do less capable people become more capable?

I argue that an important contributory factor to the enhancement of capabilities is the enactment of contentious politics in what has often been called political society. I will analyze the ways in which the rural poor in a specific locality of Bihar State in India seek to influence local-level decision-making and agenda-setting processes in their favor. I will do so with reference to a specific dispute and how it was mediated.

Sarkar, Swagato.

Sharma, Prashant. University of London/ London School of Economics and Politics

Sunday, James. University of London/ School of Oriental and African Studies

As the title indicates, this paper engages a discussion of youth encounters with the pre-intifada Egyptian ‘security state’ as the focus of the empirical data presented, wherein I explore the subjects’ encounters with that institution generally, but checkpoints in particular, as a means of understanding how the socio-spatial ordering of the city both shapes- and has broader implications on- the social production of a culture of participation characterised by a lack of formal engagement with the state. More specifically, the paper focuses on the state imposition of security checkpoints (al-ligaan) and their effects on both the real and imagined boundaries which affect youth (al-shebab) and their understandings of inclusion and exclusion in a closed environment. Though a manifestation of the security state, checkpoints stretch far beyond the exercise of power, extending into symbolic meaning and the social construction of space and identity, which has real implications for the state-society relationship.

Trantidis, Aris. University of London/ London School of Economics and Political Science

While social divisions and policy divisions offer substantive opportunities to competing political forces, and work at times as a source of systemic instability in party systems, one-party hegemony is a distinguished by the fact the incumbent’s power monopoly faces a low degree of political contestation despite the fact that participation in elections is open to alternative political parties. This puzzling observation implies that electoral hegemony must rely on a modus operandi that reduces government contestability, preventing policy divisions from developing into a strong and challenging platform for alternative political alignments. The practice of clientelism, known as a strategy that reduces party volatility in democratic systems, is examined as a possible explanation. By providing an alternative mode of accommodating social preferences and by entailing incentives for party alignments, clientelism could be associated, under certain structural conditions, with the establishment of one-party hegemony in an electoral regime.

Woodman, Sophia. University of British Columbia

Citizenship in China is embedded in local relationships of belonging, participation and entitlement. Urban residents committees and rural villager committees are key sites for citizenship, especially the exercise of the political rights contained in the Chinese constitution, and related experiments in semi-competitive elections. Based on ethnographic study of interactions in two residents committees and two villager committees in Tianjin Municipality, including observation of elections, this paper reveals emerging tensions between two modes of the political: one is a face-to-face politics that involves “socialized governance” through relation; the other is a scripted expression of “political rights” related to the bureaucratic-rational project of “ruling the country in accordance with law.” The first is largely informal and involves a “pastoral” style of governance, but gives people opportunities to talk back and advance alternative community norms, especially given reduced ideological controls. The second form, expressed most notably through local elections, is a scripted performance of “political rights” which is more recognizable in terms of liberal-democratic “citizenship”, yet the practice of which is ironically reminiscent of Maoist top-down mobilization. To achieve this performance, leaders incur obligations that make them responsive to community norms and claims. The political space of the committees is bounded, however. The severe treatment of a “small handful” of people identified as deviant shows how political claims that overflow the restrictive limits set for local, informal contention.

Saturday, 25 June 2011



Democracy, Governance and Development:

Between the Institutional and the Political

Day 1: June 27, 2011
Registration 8:30 a.m.- 9:00 a.m/ Welcome remarks 9:00 a.m.- 9:15 a.m.
Dr. Dawn Chatty, Director of Doctoral Research, Oxford Department of International Development,
University Reader in Anthropology and Forced Migration and Deputy Director, Refugee Studies Centre
University of Oxford, UK

Conceptualizing politics and hegemony
9:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.
Chair: Indrajit Roy

Governance, social choice and dilemma
Olle Frödin,  Lund University/ University of Oxford (QEH), UK

Governance, Technology and Reconfiguring the State
Swagato Sarkar, Centre for Study of Culture and Society, Bangalore, India

The politics of discretion and selectivity: clientelism and the micro-foundations of hegemony
Aris Trantidis, University of London/ London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

Tea Break 10:45 a.m.- 11:15 a.m.
The law and rights
11:15 a.m.- 12:45 p.m.
Chair: Samina Luthfa
Hybridity in action: translating culture and power through the human rights discourse
Máire Ní Mhórdha, University of St Andrews, UK

The Right to Information Act in India: economic liberalisation, democratic deepening and a state in retreat
Prashant Sharma, University of London/ London School of Economics and Politics, UK

Suing dragons: why are Chinese lawyers suing the state
John W Givens, University of Oxford/ St. Antony’s College, UK

Lunch Break 12:45 p.m.- 2:15 p.m.

Community and meanings of development
2:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
Chair: Christopher Kutarna

Negotiating Development: Nepalese Community Forest User Groups’ Resistance and Compromise During the Maoist Conflict
Sarah Byrne, University of Zurich, Switzerland

The serpent of shame: economic and community development in the Afro-ecuadorian communities of northern esmeraldas
Peter Redvers-Lee, Vanderbilt University, USA

Transnational community development projects and the micro-politics of social life in the borderlands, Nagaland, northeast India
Debojyoti Das, University of London/ School of Oriental and African Studies, UK

Tea Break 3:45- 4:15 p.m.
Governance and its discontents
4:15 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.
Chair: Sofia Donoso

Access to power: how institutions and culture shape governance
Ijlal Naqvi, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA

The institutionalization of ‘noise’ and ‘silence’ in urban politics: case studies from east Africa
Tom Goodfellow, University of London/ London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

Day 2: June 28, 2011
Participation and institutionalization of politics
9:00 a.m.- 10:30 a.m.
Chair: John W. Givens

Post-transitional social movements in Chile and the repolitization of pending development tasks: the case of the pingüino movement and education
Sofia Donoso, University of Oxford/ St. Antony’s College, UK

Which is the fake? Participation as “political rights” or as connectedness in urban and rural Tianjin
Sophia Woodman, University of British Columbia, Canada

Institutional dimensions of social movements: case study of sanitario movement and its fight for universal access to health in Brazil
Monika Dowbor, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Tea Break 10:30 a.m.- 11:00 a.m.

Resistance, encounters & repression
11:00 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.
Chair:  Swagato Sarkar

Shirking the basha: youth encounters with the everyday security state in Cairo
James Sunday, University of London/ School of Oriental and African Studies, UK

Coping with strangers: invented political institutions and concealed resistance in south-western Ethiopia
 Tamás Régi , University of Sheffield/ Sheffield International College, UK

“Everything changed after the 26th”: repression and resistance against proposed Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh
Samina Luthfa, University of Oxford/ St Cross College, UK

Lunch Break 12:30 p.m.- 1:30 p.m.

The state and its subjects
1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Chair: Olle Frödin

What can it mean to be free? Ideological camps inside China’s emerging middle class generations
Christopher Kutarna, University of Oxford/ St. Antony’s College, UK

Civil-society building, liberal  subjects and the state in Serbia
Marek Mikuš, University of London/ London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

Dissensus: constructing political subjects in Bihar
Indrajit Roy, University of Oxford/ St. Antony’s College, UK

Concluding remarks 3:00 p.m.
Professor EVK Fitzgerald,
Head of the Department, Oxford Department of International Development and
Professor of International Development Finance
University of Oxford, UK