Clientelism, Trust Networks, and India's Identity Politics

Conveying Closeness in Gujarat

Author: Ward Berenschot


With an election campaign for a seat in Gujarat's state parliament as its backdrop, this article relates India's persistent forms of identity politics to the evolution of trust networks. Political scientists and anthropologists have adopted highly divergent approaches to account for the ways in which India's politicians use social identities to mobilize support. A point of convergence, this article argues, lies in the social networks through which people solve everyday problems and organize access to state resources. Discussing the ever-changing salience of social divisions in Gujarat's politics – from class to caste to religion and region – this article argues that two characteristics of such trust networks – the extent to which these networks are organized along social divides and the extent to which they lend themselves to facilitating clientelistic exchanges with politicians – can foster or impede the political salience of these social divisions. The particular historical development of trust networks and their entanglement in patronage networks impacts the likelihood of the emergence of divisive political discourse.

Regions: South Asia
Countries: India

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© Jeff Kingston