The Making and Unmaking of Local Democracy in an Indian Village

Publication Date: 
July 2012
From Bringing Fieldwork Back In: Contemporary Urban Ethnographic Research, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science


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This study is an ethnographic investigation of a gram sabha (village assembly), the cornerstone of local democracy, in Soonaghalli, in the Mandya district of Southern Karnataka, India. Observation of the meeting and informal, open-ended conversations with the key actors illuminated how democratic policies that are conceived at the global level are practiced and experienced by local community members. The article speaks to the significance of moving beyond the prevailing politico-institutional framework of democracy that is dominated by concerns about formal regime shifts and focusing on informal practices that contribute to the making and unmaking of democratic governance. The findings shed light on the varied forms that deliberative processes take and on multiple meanings of deliberative cultures, emphasizing the need for a comparative sociological inquiry into democratic practices for a richer formulation of democratic theory.