Experiencing the State: Marginalised People and the Politics of Development

12 March 2009 - 13 March 2009

Department of Geography, Large Lecture Theatre


Bhaskar Vira (Geography, Cambridge)
Humeira Iqtidar (CSAS, Cambridge)
Philippa Williams (Geography, Cambridge)
Deepta Chopra (Geography, Cambridge)

Conference objectives
This conference brings together established and ‘early career’ academics across disciplines working under the theme of ‘Experiencing the State’ from the perspective of contemporary empirical research. It will develop preliminary working groups initiated in 2008 around a two-day workshop at the Department of Geography, January 2008 and two successful panels conducted at the Wisconsin-Madison Annual South Asian Conference, October 2008. The objective of this 2-day concluding conference is to forum well established papers with expectations to publish an edited book or guest edited special issue of an international journal. Participation at the conference is open to all and intends to provide 1 student bursary.

This conference supports the notion that the variegated impacts of the state in quotidian life and the various articulations of agency by different marginalised groups and individuals should be understood within a dialectical process in which actors both experience and shape the contemporary Indian State. Main themes for discussion:

1.Examining the concept and the composition of the ‘developmental state’ in the Indian context

2.What is meant by ‘marginalised’ groups – their identity and representation in civil society (including conflict and co-operation dynamics), state discourses and quotidian geographies

3.The dialectical ‘experience’ and expectations of state-society interactions that shapes the identity and composition of the state and the society experienced through citizenship: Negotiations, strategies and creative agencies

4.Differential realisations of state policy, in terms of inclusion and exclusion, and the shifting experiences of marginalisation and identities through state-society dialectics.


Fundamentally, this conference points to broader questions concerning the spaces of citizenship available to India’s marginalised groups, as individuals and collectives. Papers to be presented explore the different practices of citizenship in shifting economic, political and social as well as regional and temporal contexts.

Keynote speaker:
Professor Niraja Jayal
(Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India)

For the full list of speakers see the link on the top right hand side of the page or click here.


For administrative enquiries contact apm50@cam.ac.uk 



Thursday, March 12th



Registration & Coffee (Foyer of the Department of Geography)


Welcome and introductions by Bhaskar Vira


Session 1:  ‘Developmental state’: identity and citizenship
Chair: Bhaskar Vira

Philippa Williams
Improvised Citizenship: Experiences of the ‘developmental state’ in a North Indian ‘Muslim mohalla 

Nandini Nayak
Gender and Social Policy in India: The dynamics of access to rights for Single Women and Women Heading Households

Kaustav Banerjee
Developmentalism in a Democracy & the Paradox of Backwardness

Discussant: Manali Desai


Lunch (Small Lecture Theatre)


Session 2:  Reconfiguring state-society
Chair: Glyn Williams

Rubina Jasani
Sarkar nadi us paar rehne wale logon ke liye hai’ (The state exists for the people living on the other side of the river) : Everyday perceptions of the state among the survivors of the communal violence of 2002 in the slums of urban Ahmedabad.

Clarinda Still
Experiencing the State from the Margins: Dalit Perspectives on the State in Andhra Pradesh

Mira Mohsini
Engagement and  Disengagement from the Margins: Perceptions of National and State Awards Schemes for Highly Skilled Artisans

Discussant: Subir Sinha

14.45 - 15.15

Tea/Coffee (Large Lecture Theatre)

15.15 - 16.45 

Session 3:  State institutional/ actors dynamics
Chair: Glyn Williams

Vasudha Chhotray
How Samaj Pragati Sahyog works the state and why it succeeds

Sunita Abraham
Change in the Stratified Political Plenum? Citizens, Panchayati Raj Institutions and NGOs in rural arenas of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka

Nida Kirmani
The Changing Relationship between Women’s Rights and Religion in India and the Diversification of the Women’s Movement

Discussant: Kunal Sen 




Public Lecture by
Barbara Harriss-White
Globalisation, Economic Citizenship and India’s Inclusive Developmentalism

No need to register!  

19.30 (for 19.45) 

Conference dinner at St John’s College, Wordsworth Room

Friday, 13th March



Round Table Debating the UPA experience: reforms with a “human face”?
Chair and moderator: Glyn Williams.

Participants: Stuart Corbridge, Manali Desai, Anu Joshi, Jens Lerche and Kunal Sen. 


Tea/Coffee (Small Lecture Theatre)

11.30 - 13.00

Key Note Speech by
Niraja Gopal Jayal
Craving the State: Claims to Social Citizenship in Western India 


Lunch (Large Lecture Theatre)

14.00 - 15.30 

Session 4: Displacement and marginalisation
Chair: Emma Mawdsley

Fiona McConnell
The ambiguous position of Tibetan exiles in India: from governmental discourse to quotidian geographies

Kim Beazley
Experiencing Displacement in Rural India: The Changing Dynamics of State Response

Priyanca Mathur
Development-Induced Displaced Persons and the State in India – ‘Special Economic Zones’ (SEZs) and the Neoliberal Dilemma

Discussant: Anu Joshi

15.30 - 15.45

Tea/Coffee (Small Lecture Theatre)


Session 5:  Statecraft and statehood
Chair: Humeira Iqtidar

Louise Tillin
From Movements to Electoral Politics: Who Wanted a New State in Jharkhand and Uttarakhand?

Brenden Donegan
Spaces for negotiation and mass action within the National Rural Health Mission: ‘Community monitoring plus’ and people’s organisations in tribal areas of Maharashtra

Deepta Chopra
Policy Making in India: A porous and relational process of ‘State Craft’

Discussant: Stuart Corbridge


Bhaskar Vira - Conference Summary and Close