Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Mumbai | Tuljapur | Guwahati | Hyderabad

Democracy against Civility? Majoritarian Politeness and Subaltern Dissent in Contemporary India


Dec. 15, 2016

Venue: Board Room, 601, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

The voting for Brexit in Britain and the presidential nomination and election of Donald Trump in USA signify growing solidarity on racial and ethnic lines in these western democracies. In democracies across the world, indeed, issues of class inequalities are increasingly framed along ethno-cultural identities , and India provides no postcolonial exception to this generalisation. Collective identities under democracies and high globalisation tend to privilege cultural majoritarianism, simultaneously constructing a fear of minority culture and numbers (Appadurai 2006). Such fears mobilized on cultural grounds through democratic processes could bring many projects of subaltern emancipation at loggerheads with majoritarian sensibilities.

While democracy as a global project has significant achievements over the last century, present developments and past experiences also point to the universal problems of how to maintain trust and civility. Competitive politics, freedom of speech and association, and universal suffrage do not always result in an extension of civility towards marginal minorities. Democracy has always carried with it the possibility that the majority might tyrannize minorities (Mann, 2005). In India, as against the peril of ethnic cleansing, organized violence is limited to waves (Hansen 1999). While prejudices against minorities are increasingly institutionalized through democratic institutions and cultural codes, violence against minorities is dispersed. Yet such violence often constitutes critical events (Das, 1997). Prejudice is not merely a function of material inequalities, as the history of violence against Dalits, Muslims and other marginal groups in India suggests. Along with majoritarian politeness, prejudice constructs the paradox of democratic consolidation and institutionalised inequalities.

The discourses of tolerance, pluralism and multiculturalism have limited analytical value for studying democracy. While emphasizing peace, these discourses undermine trust and civility across communities. Tolerance runs the risk of becoming a burden to be shouldered by marginal groups whereas majoritarian prejudice may be cast as politeness – and praised as being central for deliberative democracy. This workshop on democracy and civility will bring together scholars to engage with the vexed relationship between democracy and civility in India.

This workshop will be held on 15 th December 2016 at Board Room, 601, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. It is part of the UKIERI Collaborative Project between TISS and University of Edinburgh on Marginal Populations, Social Mobilisation and Development.

Suryakant Waghmore and Hugo Gorringe
Workshop Coordinators


Arun Iyer is Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay

Faisal Devji is University Reader in Modern South Asian History and Director, St Antony's College Asian Studies Centre, University of Oxford)

Gopal Guru is Professor of Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Khalid Anis Ansari is Senior Assistant Professor, Law School, Glocal University

Parthasarathi Mondal is Assistant Professor- Selection Grade and Chairperson - Centre for Social Theory, School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

Praskanva Sinharay is Doctoral Scholar, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences

Qudsiya Contractor is Assistant Professor, Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

Ramesh Bairy is Associate Professor of Sociology, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay

Rowena Robinson is Professor of Sociology, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay

Suryakant Waghmore is Associate Professor of Sociology at Department of humanities and Social Sciences IIT-B and Professor at TISS (on Lien)

Swagato Sarkar is Associate Professor and Associate Dean, Jindal School of Government and Public Policy, O.P Jindal Global University

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