An Indian Summer: Corruption, Class, and the Lokpal Protests

A.D. Khandekar, D.S. Reddy

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Abstract

In the summer of 2011, in the wake of some of India’s worst corruption scandals, a civil society group calling itself India Against Corruption was mobilizing unprecedented nation-wide support for the passage of a strong Jan Lokpal (Citizen’s Ombudsman) Bill by the Indian Parliament. The movement was, on its face, unusual: its figurehead, the 75-year-old Gandhian, Anna Hazare, was apparently rallying urban, middle-class professionals and youth in great numbers—a group otherwise notorious for its political apathy. The scale of the protests, of the scandals spurring them, and the intensity of media attention generated nothing short of a spectacle: the sense, if not the reality, of a united India Against Corruption. Against this background, we ask: what shared imagination of corruption and political dysfunction, and what political ends are projected in the Lokpal protests? What are the class practices gathered under the "middle-class" rubric, and how do these characterize the unusual politics of summer 2011? Wholly permeated by routine habits of consumption, we argue that the Lokpal protests are fundamentally structured by the impulse to remake social relations in the image of products and "India" itself into a trusted brand. Taking "corruption" as a site at which the middle class discursively constitutes itself, we trace the idioms and mechanisms by which the Lokpal agitation re-articulates the very terms of politics, citizenship, and democracy in contemporary India.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Consumer Culture
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Aug 2013

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