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Title: Jantar Mantar as a Site of Protest: the Discourse of Dissent and Narratives of the State
Authors: Annapurna, Aditi
Keywords: School of Development Studies
Mahuya Bandyopadhyay
Diverse protest groups - India
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: TISS
Abstract: Existing theories on the state have tended to take a top - down approach, conceiving it as a macro structure that, in its policy and actions, creates the conditions for a society that goes about its workings in concordance with the wishes and mandate of the state. Contemporary research , however, challenges this categorisation and seeks to problematise this belief of the state’s power in the ‘vertical encompassment’ it exercises over the rest of society. (Gupta & Ferguson, 2002) I nstead, it looks at the state with an ‘ethnographic gaze’ and looks at how symbolic and cultural practices among social actors call upon different ‘imaginations’ of the state, therefore making their own meanings of the necessity and function of the state a nd government. My research looks at protest in as such an analytical category that reveals the use of resistance as a means of articulating an ‘institutional imagination’: the institution here being the state. It will explicate the discursive practices th at come through in the voicing and performance of dissent, to understand how different protest groups paint their own images of the state and derive the legitimacy of their protest claims from their own respective imaginations. In order to do this, I use J antar Mantar as a useful field site to speak to diverse protest groups across India and understand their experiences of interacting with the state through the exercise of dissent. Owing to Jantar Mantar also being an officially sanctioned site for protest in the national capital, I also look at the practices of institutions, including the police, law and order enforcements, and administration as embodying the state’s own attitude and response to dissidents. The manifestation of the state as it were in these local enforcement bodie s and the manifestation of the state in the minds and narratives of the protestors, I submit, c ombine to form an interesting ‘Narrative of the State.
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