Blurred Boundaries: The Discourse of Corruption, the Culture of Politics, and the Imagined State Author(s): Akhil Gupta

Source: American Ethnologist, Vol. 22, No. 2 (May, 1995), pp. 375-402 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 07/10/2011 12:24
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blurredboundaries: the discourse of corruption,the culture of politics, and the imagined state

AKHILGUPTA-Stanford University

While doing fieldwork in a small village in North India (in 1984-85, and again in 1989) that I have named Alipur, I was struck by how frequently the theme of corruption cropped up in the everyday conversations of villagers. Most of the stories the men told each other in the evening, when the day's work was done and small groups had gathered at habitual places to shoot the breeze, had to do with corruption (bhrashtaachaar)and "the state."' Sometimes the discussion dealt with how someone had managed to outwit an official who wanted to collect a bribe; at other times with "the going price" to get an electrical connection for a new tubewel Ior to obtain a loan to buy a buffalo; at still other times with which official had been transferredor who was likely to be appointed to a certain position and who replaced, with who had willingly helped his caste members or relatives without taking a bribe, and so on. Sections of the penal code were cited and discussed in great detail, the legality of certain actions to circumvent normal procedure were hotly debated, the pronouncements of district officials discussed at length. At times it seemed as if I had stumbled in on a specialized discussion with its own esoteric vocabulary, one to which, as a lay person and outsider, I was not privy. What is strikingabout this situation, in retrospect, is the degree to which the state has become implicated in the minute texture of everyday life. Of course north Indian villages are not unique in this respect. It is precisely the unexceptionability of the phenomenon that makes the paucity of analysis on it so puzzling. Does the ubiquity of the state make it invisible? Or is the relative lack of attention to the state in ethnographic work due to a methodology that privileges face-to-face contact and spatial proximity-what one may call a "physics of presence?" In this article I attempt to do an ethnography of the state by examining the discourses of corruption in contemporary India. Studyingthe state ethnographical ly involves both the analysis of the everyday practices of local bureaucracies and the discursive construction of the state in public culture. Such an approach raises fundamental substantive and methodological questions. Substantively, it allows the state to be disaggregated by focusing on different bureaucracies without prejudgingtheir unity or coherence. Italso enables one to problematize the relationship between the translocality of "the state" and the necessarily localized offices, institutions, and

In this article I attempt to do an ethnography of the state by examining the discourses of corruption in contemporary India. I focus on the practices of lower levels of the bureaucracy in a small north Indian town as well as on representations of the state in the mass media. Research on translocal institutionssuch as "thestate" enables us to reflect on the limitations of participant-observation as a technique of fieldwork. The analysis leads me to question Eurocentricdistinctions between state and civil society and offers a critique of the conceptualization of "the state" as a monolithic and unitary entity. [the state, public culture, fieldwork, discourse, corruption, India]

American Ethnologist 22(2):375-402. Copyright? 1995, American Anthropological Association.

blurred boundaries


1987b. Skocpol 1979). elementary school teachers. Nugent 1994. thereby providing a set of propositions that can be developed. and others."Once cultures. Handelman 1978. The goal is to map out some of the most importantconnections in a very large picture. Brow 1988. societies. Instead of treating corruption as a dysfunctional aspect of state organizations. the staff of the civil hospital. it raises concerns about how one applies ethnographic methods when the aim is to understand the workings of a translocal institution that is made visible in localized practices. 1981. live and work-the village-level workers. Is it the "imperialismof categories" (Nandy 1990:69) that al lows the particular cultural configuration of "state/civil society" arising from the specific historical experience of Europeto be naturalized and applied universally? Insteadof taking this distinction as a point of departure. Urla 1993. epochal events. major policies. Although in this article I stress the role of public culture and transnational phenomena. This necessitates some reflection on the limitations inherent in data collected in "the field.. is mediated by local bureaucratsbut cannot be understood entirely by staying within the geographically bounded arena of a subdistricttownship.3 In addition to description and analysis. and "important"people (Evanset al." The discourse of corruption. Herzfeld 1992a. citizens.4 Research on the state. Yang 1989). one has to rethinkthe relationship between bodily presence and the generation 376 american ethnologist . this article also has a programmaticaim: to marksome new trails along which future anthropological research on the state might profitably proceed. and what is the relevant scale of analysis?2 An ethnography of the state in a postcolonial context must also come to terms with the legacy of Western scholarship on the state. constituting the broad base of the bureaucratic pyramid. The discourse of corruption turns out to be a key arena through which the state. with its focus on large-scale structures.Methodologically. 1991. Cohn 1987a. has failed to illuminate the quotidian practices (Bourdieu 1977) of bureaucrats that tell us about the effects of the state on the everyday lives of ruralpeople. Although research into the practices of local state officials is necessary. Anagnost 1994. land record keepers. challenged. needs to be reexamined. forexample. and nations are no longer seen to map unproblematically onto different spaces (Appadurai 1986." and this is where many of their images of the state are forged. Mitchell 1989. n. on which such a large portion of the scholarship on the state is based. This is the site where the majorityof people in a ruraland agriculturalcountry such as India come into contact with "the state. I see it as a mechanism through which "the state" itself is discursively constituted.But I do want to question the assumption regarding the natural superiority-the assertion of authenticity-implicit in the knowledge claims generated by the fact of "being there" (what one may call the "ontological imperative"). I use the analysis of the discourse of corruption to question its utility in the Indian context. What is the epistemological status of the object of analysis? What is the appropriate mode of gathering data. Hannerz 1986). agriculturalextension agents. In so doing. Taussig 1992. Surprisinglylittle research has been conducted in the small towns (in the Indian case. 1985. this article seeks to add to a fast-growing body of creative work that is pointing the way to a richeranalysis of "the state"(some examples are Abrams 1988. Gupta and Ferguson 1992. Very little rich ethnographic evidence documents what lower-level officials actually do in the name of the state.Such claims to truthgain their force precisely by clinging to bounded notions of "society" and "culture.practices in which it is instantiated. in press.d. I should point out that much more needs to be done to lay the empirical basis for ethnographies of the state. Ashforth 1990. atthe level of the subdistrict [tehsil]) where a large number of state officials. and other organizations and aggregations come to be imagined. it is not by itself sufficient to comprehend how the state comes to be constructed and represented. I do not want to suggest that the face-to-face methods of traditional ethnography are irrelevant. and refutedby others working on this topic. Kasaba 1994. In this article I argue that the conventional distinction between state and civil society.

is merelyto notethatsuch linkageshavestructuring that may overdetermine contexts in which daily practices are carriedout." that is unable to comprehendhow the state is discursively to an empiricistepistemology5 with anotherpracticeemployed It constituted. as adjudicator the and of rests authenticity "data.Here."Thisstresson the experienceof being in phenomenological to with itsconcomitant emphasison sensoryperception.Iwishto drawattention the powerful of to Byfocusingon the discursive to cultural by represented itsemployeesandto citizens practices whichthe stateis symbolically of the nation. is forthis reasonthatI have combinedfieldwork a practicewhose importanceis often downplayedin discussionsof our by anthropologists.Conversely." as the ultimategroundforthe judgmentof interpretations on idea that one learnsabout culturaldifferenceprimarily the rarelyinterrogated throughthe knowledgegained in "thefield.we must and attentionto the "multiplymediated"10 contexts throughwhich the state comes to be pay constructed.and by conceptualizedas a closed domaincircumscribed nationalboundaries.JamesBrow(1988) shows how a governmenthousingprojectin Sri Lanka makesthe stateconcretelyvisible in the eyes of villagers.8 the discursiveconstructionof the state thereforenecessarilyrequiresattentionto Exploring transnational 1989).the new liberalization (Harvey1989). Insteadof the to attempting searchforthe local-levelor grassroots conceptionof the stateas if itencapsulated itsown reality treating and "thelocal"as an unproblematic coherentspatialunit. that is not a fixedorderbut is subjectto transformations arisefromthe actionsof nation-states and fromchangestakingplace in international politicaleconomy.of of ethnographicdata. national ideologies compete for hegemony with each other and with transnational flows of information. in this periodthathas been "latecapitalism" (Mandel1975) or the era of "flexibleaccumulation" variouslydesignated Forinstance. in a transaction the international of India'smost important strategic economic partners. of SerenaTenekoon(1988) demonstrates that the symbolic distribution water in all directionsacross the landscapeof the country of becomes a means by which the reach of the state is represented." spatial blurred boundaries 377 . construction the state.6I have lookedat representations the stateand of "thepublic" in in English-language vernacular and newspapers India.9centeringon in Similarly. Inheranalysisof the rituals developmentperformed to of at the inauguration a largewaterprojectin Sri Lanka. and stylesembodied in commoditiesmarketed multinational by capital. an exemplaryrecentdiscussioncan of be foundin Herzfeld1992b). The centralityof fieldworkas rite of is that any theoryof the state needs to take into account its constitution througha and Thisis notto arguethatevery complexsetof spatiallyintersecting representations practices.This is the analysisof thatwidely distributed culturaltext. collective methodological the newspaper(foran earlyexample. importance Briefly.7 These publicculturalpracticesareenacted in a contestedspace thatcannotbe Folk.the emphasisis on the of the that of possibilities imagining translocal areenabledby the embodiment the statethrough markers such as houses.bringhomethe complexintermingling local arms of discourses international and Whatisthetheoretical ofthese observations? practices. Indevelopingmy analysisI have drawnsubstantially otherethnographers SouthAsia on of who have paidattention the state. between villagersand state officialscan be shown to have episode of grassrootsinteraction transnational it effects transparent linkages. tool turn.In this case. the literal enactmentof traversing space of the nationcomes to signifythe ubiquityand translocality the of the linked spatialproximity "theother. policies being followed by the Congress in India since the 1990 elections can only be understoodin the context of a government transnational discourseof "efficiency" being promotedby the International MonetaryFund and and (IMF) the collapse of the formerSovietUnion.regional. tastes. intensediscussionsof corruption Indiain 1989. The interstate processesin the interstate system(Calhoun system. see Benedict1946.

the administrative and government public practicesof different the bureaucracies themselvesserved centerclosestto Alipur. Focusingon the discursiveconstruction statesand social groupsallows one to see that the legacy of of on Westernscholarship the statehas been to universalize particular a cultural construction of and "civil society" are "state-societyrelations"in which specific notions of "statehood" of on their conjoined.Becausethey give a concrete shape and formto what would these everydayencountersprovideone of the critical otherwisebe an abstraction ("thestate").who successfullyexploit the inexperienceof two ruralmen. representations the state are effectedthroughthe institutions agents.I attemptto demonstrate how local level encounters in with the statecome togetherwith representations the mass media. since corruption easilyto barelyconcealedstereotypes the ThirdWorld. of allowsusto obtaina senseofthetexture relations needs to ask how one can use the Worldpoliticalformations confront "naturalness" concepts to the of comparative studyof Third that have arisenfromthe historical experienceand culturalcontextof the West.includingthose whose officesare Mostof the important bureaucracy. Inaddition providedby theirrelationships government of by being promulgated the mass media.Itwas inplacessuchas these.which systematically encountering "the state" at the local level of contextforencountering stateis the Forthe majority Indian citizens. in relations" the ThirdWorldare seen as reflecting priorposition in the developmentof the a "advanced" industrial to to nations. componentsthrough houses the lowest ends of the enormousstate and federal Mandi17 Small but prosperous. conclusion.12 mightbe worthwhileto say somethingabout how I proceedto develop a it on When notionsof corrupt "underdevelperspective the statethatis explicitlyanti-orientalist.'4Instead building these notions.the most immediate with at to bureaucracies the local level.the temptation compare "them" "ourown past"proves irresistible many Westernscholars.that was corruption discussedand debated. of the local courts.13 to Instead.Finally.This is followed by the drawsout the larger theoreticalissuesraisedin the article.wherevillagers and discussing debating latest of with each other and with residents the nearbytowns. officesof the variousgovernment information aboutthe statewas exchangedandopinionsaboutpolicies as siteswhereimportant of or officialsforged.Since the ethnography the state developed in this articlefocuses on the discourseof of and lendsitselfrather of corruption. The second case of successfulactionsto protecthimselffromthe threats concernsa lower-casteman'spartially in the bureaucracy appealingto a higherofficial.this articleasks if one can demonstrate in culturaland historical contexts. which the statecomes to be constructed.Typical largenumbers people clusteredin smallgroupson the grounds ly.the hospital. officialsof the district.a grassroots (literally.occupying lowly but important rungsin the bureaucratic hierarchy. lookingcloselyatthesesettings between stateofficialsand clientsat the local level.the district office. Inthis section I drawon threecases that between state officialsand ruralpeoples. heartsof local state officials. The first togetherpresenta rangeof relationships concerns a pair of state officials. In Mandi.animatedly magistrate's interacted the news.'8 378 american ethnologist . Everyday are bureaucracies to my way of thinking most important the in of ingredient constructions "the state"forgedby villagersand stateofficials.or the police station. as much as in the mass media.The who has allies a powerfulheadman'6 by KisanUnion thirdexampledrawson a seriesof actionsconductedby the powerfulBharatiya in terror the farmers' movementthatoftenstrikes IndianPeasantUnion).'5 provincialism the face of incommensurable I beginwith a seriesof vignettes give a sense of the local level functioning "thestate" that of andthe relationship rural that interactions state with people haveto stateinstitutions.I then look at the broader field of representations of "thestate"in public culture. in which "state-society oped" countriesare combined with a developmentalist perspective.

it must not be forgotten that land is the principal means of production in this setting. Astonishing as this kind of bureaucratic sprawl might appear."That is where he was usually to be found. prefer to live in another. often switching from one addressee to another in the middle of a single sentence. there was nevertheless a performative aspect that had to be mastered. interested in different transactions. Verma. Sharmajiwas a patwari. He functioned as Sharmaji's alter ego. bigger town that serves as the district headquarters.19and it was here that he kept the land registersfor the villages that he administered. "Is what I have said true or not?" Most of the transactions conducted in this "office"were relatively straightforward: adding or a name on a land title. Although I was confused at first. This room functioned as Sharmaji's"office. All those who had business to conduct came to this " established a claim to a piece of land by plowing it. One day. lying on the outskirtsof Mandi. dividing up a plot among brothers. two young men whose village fell in the jurisdiction of Verma were attempting to add a name to the title of their plot. Sharmaji lived in a small.settling a fight over disputed deleting farmland. Sharmaji conversed with all of them at the same time. filling in his ledgers for him. for physically measuring land areas to enter them in the records. himself a patwari of Sharmaji'snatal village (and therefore a colleague) was clearly in an inferior position. The other person worked as a full-time Man Fridaywho did various odd jobs and chores for Sharmaji's "official"tasks as well as for his household. Both were blurred boundaries 379 . On average. he went to the patwari who settled the dispute by physically measuring the area with a tape measure. inconspicuous house deep in the old part of town. If a neighbor wanted to fight back and reclaim his land. winding lanes would lead me there. an official who keeps the land records of approximately five to six villages. equally important. "Have I said anything wrong?" or. sycophants. barely big enough for three people. or about five thousand plots. There are a number of officials above the patwariwhose main-if not sole-duty is to deal with land records. The lower part of the house consisted of two rooms and a small enclosed courtyard. One of them. Two of the side walls of the office were lined with benches. Of course." but in most cases the "rates"were well-known and fixed. Everyone present joined in the discussion of matterspertainingto others. Sharmajioften punctuated his statements by turning to the others and rhetorically asking. I will illustrate this with a story of a botched Mandi. The patwari is responsible for registering land records. Part of the reason is that rental accommodation is hard to come by in Mandi (as I discovered to my frustration). Two men in particular were almost always by his side. The patwari also keeps a record of deaths in a family in the event of a dispute among the heirs about property. They were sitting on the near left on one of the side benches. facing the entrance toward the inner part of the room was a raised platform. sometimes acting as a frontand sometimes as a mediator in complex negotiations over how much money it would take to "get a job done. assembled in the tiny room. these things "cost money. I eventually identified which turns in the narrow. But however open the process of giving bribes and however public the transaction. the total comes to about two officials for each village. Since plots were separated from each other by small embankments made by farmers themselves and not by fences or other physical barriers. Farmerswith predatory intentions slowly started plowing just a few inches beyond their boundary each season so that in a short while they could effectively capture a few feet of their neighbors' territory. when I reached Sharmaji'shouse in the middle of the afternoon."At any given time there were usually two or three different groups.or the need to divide it up at some point. it enables them to stay in closer touch with their superior officers. surrounded by clients. and colleagues. One of those rooms had a large door that opened onto the street. and for evaluating the quality of land." and generally behaving as a confidant and consultant who helped Sharmajiidentify the best strategy for circumventing the administrativeand legal constraints on the transferof land titles. It was here that Sharmajisat and held court.

This was accomplishedby aggressively tellingthemto go aheadand firsttryto get the job done on theirown and that. 10. Give whateveramount you wantto give. The man to one of the farmers present and and said it had been somethinglike Rs. Verma saidto the youngmen. they could alwayscome back to Sharmaji.Sharmaji reappearedand announced loudly that they would have to "pay for it.The young men repeatedthe questionto him.Theyappearedill at ease and somewhatnervousin Sharmaji's an impression triedhardto dispelby adopting room. Theirrubber slippersand unkempt clearlymarked an impression reinforced clothes thathad obviouslynot been stitchedby a tailor villagers." The two clients then whisperedto each other."He immediately he landregister.At the mentionof the headman.20 Sharmaji respondedby bursting were right." all the of them brokethe impasseby reachinginto his shirtpocketand carefullytakingout a few folded bills. of but do paperwork through and the otherspresent(someof whom were farmers anxiousto get theirown work Sharmaji done) firstconvinced the young men thatthey would never be able to do it themselves. it was to himthatthey came. Finally. by who normally cateredto the "smart" of town-dwelling set youngmen."You laughing to do your workeven for Rs."Ineverrefusedto help them."he said.that'sthe law. "Helpthemget theirworkdone."he the Sharmaji to which Vermawould reply. to Theyoungmenturned the otherpeopleandaskedthem ifthey knewwhatthe appropriate was fromRs.When I arrived the scene. the applicationwould have to be backdatedby a few months. Allof themgave figuresranging datedbecausethat is how much it had cost ten or moreyearsago." The young men wanted to know how much would be required. I sensed that Verma had knownthis all hair them to be probably theirlateteens. soon started forhelp. where they had a shortwhisperedconference. that because in orderto add a nameto it took morethan Rs. negotiations on seemed to have brokendown the men had decided thatthey were not goingto relyon Verma's already: help in gettingthe the variousbranches the bureaucracy would instead itthemselves. He said. Vermamade a perfectlytimed then requested Vermato "help" youngmen. which Sharmaji to responded. if all else failed."Sharmaji them thatthey didn'tknow anythingaboutthe law.They explainedthat relationswere not good between them and the headmanand thatthey were in oppositecamps. "andthengive Verma exactly and asked him how much he had paid ten yearsago. Sharmaji and Verma.Sharmaji workdone.Thereupon of the farmers one succeed.the young men became dismayed. why should we go runningaroundwhen you are here?" brother]. present told the young men that Sharmaji was a very well-connectedperson. he said." When they askedthe questionagain. 150. 10 to into raucouslaughter Vermasmiled.130-150 butsaidthattheirinformation sumwas. I Although neverdid findout why they wantedto adda nameto the landrecords. "Itis not for me to say. nervousclients seemedto lose all theirbravado. then went into an adjoiningroom.Withoutappearing to himselfsaid that when big farmers and important leadersneeded to get their brag. but firstyou'll need the signatureof the headmanof your told village. "Goand findoutthe cost of putting a nameaddedto the register" yourname in the turned halfof that. you don't "If I will alwaysbe willingto help you. "Giveas much as you like. immediately "Youshould ask him [Verma] that. He handedRs."The two patwaris kept urging.saying"Tau[father's elder They begging know what's best."Shortlythereafter. Then both Sharmaji Vermagot up abruptly leftfor lunch. the Perhapsbecause they had been previouslyunawareof his reputation. then Sharmaji told the young men thatthey shouldhavefirstfoundout "whatit cost"to "get these days." told them. 14 justforthe cost of the application a plot.Iwas told thatit was in conniection withtheirefforts obtainfertilizer a loan forwhich the landwas to on to serveas collateral. "I'llbe happy told him. Theyoung men triedto put 380 american ethnologist . they an overconfident tone in theirconversation.

000 if you want fromthe cost of the pleaded material[fromthe portionof the house grantreserved purchasing for but materials].000 out of the Rs.therefore.When villagers their exclusion from governmentservices because these were costly.22 Iwas told thatone of the "beneficiaries" Sripal. "TakeRs. I could not help remarking it looked quite solid. competence. to on levels of the bureaucracy exertsome pressure local officials. who was still sitting No one could tell them what the current figurewas. EvenManFriday.200.Ifthey did not get the loan. harijans less thanone acre of land.7. Indira and the AwaasYojanaandthe Nirbal Varg HousingProgram the Bothprograms intendedto benefitpoor are WeakerSectionsHousingProgram. who lived in a clusterof Sripal low-caste(jatav)homes in the village.that a good face on the bunglednegotiation suggesting it would not be a big loss if they did by not succeed in theirefforts. Pettyofficials.6. But Sripal that dismissedthatnotion. stateofficialsgot the betterof a couple of inexperienced for of however. villagedevelopmentworker23 took himto the town. approved. Thevillagedevelopment that he did not have any money. required get the material workeraskedhimto payan additional 500 to get the bricks.The "practice" bribe giving was not. When I saw the brickone-roomdwelling constructed next to his mother'shouse.greatdeal of importance attachedto not naminga sum. Sharmaji colleagueon behalfof the clients. immediately was by Sripal selectedforthisprogram the villageheadman.He also discoveredthatthe cost of laborwas supposedto be blurred boundaries 381 .SherSingh.and had an income below a specifiedlimit. Inthe implementation developmentprograms. that Afterthathe was given a slip (parchi) entitledhimto pick up predetermined of quantities materialfrom a store designatedby the village developmentworker. Inthiscase.Moreimportantly.Forthe paperwork was chargedRs. were expressingfrustration they although forthose services. in orderto meettargets by higher set example. were not just voicing because thatwas no smallfactor.The money building to to site transported the construction came out of his own pocket. lackeda brickhouse. I spoketo himoutsidehis new house. clients. fromthisparticular they empty-handed eventuallybe backand would then have to payeven morethanthe going rateto get the same appearedin turnsas the benefactorand the supplicantpleadingwith his job done. 1. in undertwo government the Severalhouses have been constructed Alipur programs. small-bonedman.The act of givingthe bribebecameentirelya gestureof goodwiIIon the partof the customersrather was a to thana consciousmechanism greasethe wheels.sayingitwas notforhimto intervene.Sripal Rs.24 Once againhe had to forkout the transportation expense to have the bricksdeliveredfrom a kiln nearthe village. AwaasYojana meantforlandless was peoplewho do nothavea brick(pucca)house.localofficialsoftenhaveto seekout beneficiaries can of The beneficiariesof these programs then employ the authority the upper authorities. providing had Sripal himwith material worthonly Rs.simply an economic transactionbut a culturalpracticethat requireda great degree of performative of they complainedaboutthe corruption stateofficials.000 allocatedto him. respectively). thatitwas all upto Sharmaji there. of and Verma.When his namewas the taken.21 to capitalrequired negotiatedeftly they lackedthe cultural and Theentireepisodewas skilfullymanagedby Sharmaji Verma. had his photograph he andthenopened an accountin his namein a bank. Sripalclaimedthatthe bricksgiven to him were inferior yellow bricks(peelayeenth) thathad been improperly baked. Indira AwaasYojana(literally. theycame away Although knewthatthe youngmen would roundof negotiations.TheIndira whereasthe NirbalVargAwaasYojanawas for all those who owned (untouchables). not more than 25 years old. was so was a thin. not alwayshave theirway. as the young men learned." claimedthatthiswas exactlywhatthe villagedevelopment worker done. they would continueto farmas they usuallydid-that is. withoutfertilizer. don'task me to pay you anything. and to refused answer.Vermamanagedto appearto be willingto do the work.

for how manyyearssuch programs such as buildinghouses for if one wantsto understand why developmentprograms Similarly.When a a elicited no response.reimbursed him. Sripalhimselfis illiterate.Clearly. "Whatcan I tell you?"he asked." case demonunsuccessfulin his appealsfor justice. Sripaldid not receive any material a door and a window.He even hiredSripalto construct In a home for anotherpersonunderthe same program. he produceda copy of it for me. he threatened beat him up so badlythat he would never the enterthe villageagain."Living this is as good as beingdead. continue. IMFconditionalities not empirically the But program. When SherSinghfoundout thatSripalhad complainedabout him and the villagedevelopto ment workerat the Blockoffice. Afterthe police cannotexpect to find visibletransnational that is that would requirea kind of immediatedetermination encounter.Sripal to committed protecting are Becausethe centralandstategovernments theoretically hierarchy. Sripal like asked. daredto harmSripalphysically."Ifyou don'tpay up."The letteralleged that the village developmentworkerhad failed to supply the to and necessarymaterial thatbecausethe headmanhadthreatened beat him up he had been forcedto flee the village.his complaintregarding threatto his life was taken quite seriously.Fearing worst. any case. the lettersaid. for As if this were not enough. "Readit yourself." reportedly Sripal."Sittingin frontof the empty space thatwas to be the door to his he does it make?" difference told me thathe was resignedto goingto jail.000 towardthe cost of completingthe house. No officialhad come to inspectthe workto see if there was anythingmissing.Although had builtthe house himselfbecause he was an expertmason.SherSingh.Butthe villagedevelopmentworker Sripal Sripal "One unlesshe paidback Rs. [kaagaz-kalam at Frustrated abouthisdoorlesshouse. the scheduledcaste people such as Sripal.I want to addressexplicitlywhat it tells us about dimensionsto transnational linkages.Sripalfled fromthe villageand went to live with his to to was in-laws. so it was impossibleto live in the new house. addition. Sripal In thatday andthatto leavethemwould have been construedas inhospitable.3. by forcing Indian episode inthe house-building explainthisparticular directly do the to curtaildomesticexpenditure. I'll have you put away in jail. to When I asked Sripal tell me what a police contingentwas sent to the villageto investigate.SherSinghmade peace with Sripal. and mentedand at what levels.25 imprisonment told he is of my relatives a jailwarden[thanedaadr. to he he neverreceivedthe Rs. he could not do any heavyworkbecause he had brokenhis armsome time ago.Thisstrategy the highestadministrative District paidoff in that authority Magistrate.Despitethe threat his life. every grassroots do untrueand analyticallyindefensible. conditionalities have budgetary implicagovernment are These influencewhich programs funded. Sripal said.he would riskretaliation Beforeleavingthis episode with Sripal.became angryat Sripalfor refusing come to workone had thathe could notpossiblyhavegone becausehis relatives come over explained day.who had been employing to on Sripalas a daily laborer his farm.300 allocatedfor laborcosts in the program.Sripal's Eventhoughhe was ultimately classes have a practicalknowledgeof the multiple of stratesthateven members the subaltern of Facedwiththe depredations the headmanandvillagedevelopment levels of stateauthority.Forexample. of had appealedto the authority a personthreerungshigherin the bureaucratic worker. he lodgedcomplaints the Blockofficeand at the bank that lent him the money for construction. 382 american ethnologist .Sripalcomplainedthat those whose job it was to inspect the because they were the ones buildingsjust sat in theiroffices and approvedthe construction are to who hadthe authority createthe officialrecord("They the ones who havepen and paper unhee kaypaas hai]").Sripal not dauntedin his efforts seek justice.he approached lawyerto draft letterto the he saw thathis complaints in the area. "What house.who is targeted. how they are impletions for such programs.SherSinghstoppedasking with threatened to come to laboron his farm. Meanwhile.Sendingthe police to the village was a clear warningto SherSinghthat if he arm fromthe repressive of the state.

One can also find contrasting instanceswhere local officialsare on the receivingend of disaffection with stateinstitutions. as will be evident froma few examples. sometimesmoredirectly. stand the officials who are Sharmaji manhandled the peasantactivistsof the BKU. The implementation developmentprograms of thereforeformsa key arenawhere representations the state are constitutedand where its of legitimacyis contested. as local officialsemploy their by just with bureaucratic to a familiarity procedures carryout or obstruct transaction maneuvering by blurred boundaries 383 . went straight the executiveengineer'shouseandcampedon his lawn(a common to form of civil disobedience in Indiais to gherao [encircleand preventmovementofl a high had official). In one such linkages. he had the transformer installedthreedays later. young manwent to the Kisan shortly and requested they help him get a new transformer. Beingan "honest" was man(thatis.tyingthemto trees. The transformer to his tubewell and those of 11 of his supplyingelectricity Rs. What 1984. was of Sripal amongthose beneficiaries "development" who regretted acceptinghelp.A youngfarmer incidentto me. who manipulatetheir gullible clients." said. Eachsuch transformer relateda common typicallyservesfive to ten tubewells.He becamedeeplyalienatedbytheveryprograms assistance ever that the state employed to legitimateits rule.Atthe sametime. he appeared defeatedinthe end bythe procedures a bureaucracy of whose ruleshe could notcomprehend. The farmersno longer fearedthe police and revenueofficials.the poorexist in the firstplace and why they are initiated managedby the singular of characterization the natureand contentof the interaction villagersand bureaucrats possible."What Ido?We don'thavethe replacement reportedly equipment the present So they gave himthe must and that place them in the contextof a regimeof "development" came into being in the postwar international orderof decolonized nation-states (Escobar 1990). on the and makingthem do "sit-ups."Obviously. So they contributed 150 each (approximately at exchange rates of the HydelDepartment. by It should be clear from all the incidentsdescribedabove that lower-levelofficialsplay a crucialrole in citizens'encounters with "thestate.1. Some examplesare providedby severalactionsof villagers' the Bharatiya KisanUnion (BKU).Similarly. Not all such incidentsended amicably. one trueto hisword).Incontrast of is to and Verma.sometimesthroughmultiplerelays. then)and took the moneyto the assistant prevailing engineer They told himthattheircropswere dyingfor a lackof waterand thatthey were in deep trouble. Ferguson happens at the grassrootsis thus complexly mediated.800 they hadpooled and requested the transformer replaced that be as soon as possible. Whenthe same situationrecurred the Union thereafter." refusedto pay electricitydues (up to 60 percent of They sector dues remainunpaidin a nearbydistrict) and forced "corrupt" officialsto agricultural returnmoney allegedlytaken as bribes.the linemen came the followingday and replacedit.They refusedto move untila new transformer been installedin the village."Sureenough.a crowd walked off with six transformers froman electricitystationin broaddaylight(Aaj1989f).26 of Sripal's experienceof pittingone organization the stateagainstothersand of employing the multiplelayersof stateorganizations his advantageno doubtshapedhis construction to of the soon as the equipment in.The executiveengineerpromised themthathe "wouldsend menatonce. $10 neighborsblew out. about50 of themclimbed that So people on tractors.I also heardabout an incidentin an adjacentvillage where employees of the electricityboard were caught stealing some copper wire from a transformer iratevillagers who proceededto beatthemup and "jail" them in a villagehouse. He took the money and promisedthem thatthe job would be done in a few days.The quick responseof these officialswas due to the fact thatthe KisanUnion had alreadyestablisheditselfas a powerfulforce in that particular area. 1988. occasion "arresting" officials.He can at time. One of the mostfrequent is complaintsof farmers thatthey have to pay bribesto officialsof the Hydel Department replace burned-out to transformers.

it is patentlyinaccurate(as well as being class-biased). as that squeeze andsubordinates followsuit. if officialslike Sharmaji and the villagedevelopmentworkerare seen as thoroughly the between blurring boundaries "state" "civilsociety. Sharmaji's bosses depend on his considerable superior ability to maneuver land records for their own transactions. and the Block DevelopmentOffice.27 Almostall othersimilarly placedofficialsin different branchesof the state operatein an analogousmanner. cantonments.intheirwillingness takebribes.Thedifference thatwhereashigher-level is stateofficialsraiselarge sumsfromthe relatively peoplewho can afford pay itto them. At the local level it becomesdifficult experiencethe stateas an ontically to coherententity:what one confrontsinsteadis much more discreteand fragmentary-land records the officials. pose between"state" "society" some obvious and in challengeto Westernnotionsof the boundary The Westernhistorical has been builton statesthatput people in locations ways.One has a betterchance of finding them at the roadsidetea stalls and in their homes than in their offices. experience distinctfromtheir homes-in offices. may be usefulto drawout the implications the ethnographic presented in thissectionforwhat it tells us aboutcorruption the implementation policy. too do subalternpeople such as demonstrate practical a in usingthe hierarchical natureof stateinstitutions Sripal competence to theirown ends. His is a "volumebusiness. is important locate them in a larger"system" corruptionin which their officersare firmlyimplicated." themsatisfy theirclientsand.buysprotection insurance hisown activities.villagedevelopment workers.headmen. to it of material Finally. People such as Sharmaji collapse this distinction only betweentheirroles as publicservants as privatecitizens at the site of not and theiractivity. despite the fact that lower-level officials' earnings from bribes are it to of substantial. the ElectricityBoard people officials-are not unusualor exceptionalin the mannerin which they conduct theirofficial to for classes duties. is oftenclaimedthateven well-designed government fail and programs in their implementation. example.or intheirconducttowarddifferent of villagers.In fact. 1985). Electricity Board.In otherwords. and of the described here-Sharmaji.butalso in theirstylesof operation. First. inthe process.For it is clear that lower-level officialsareonly one linkin a chainof corrupt practicesthatextendsto the apexof stateorganizations reachesfarbeyondthemto electoralpolitics(Wade1982. The local-levelencounterswith the statedescribedin this section help us discernanother who may very well constitutea majority state of significant point.which are several orders of theirsa "highmargin" one.lower-level few to officials collect it in smallfiguresand on a daily basisfroma very largenumberof people."it is perhapsbecausethose categoriesare descriptively and inadequate to the lived realitiesthatthey purport represent. thatthe best of plans founderdue to widespread at If corruption the lowerlevelsof the bureaucracy. is 384 american ethnologist . Second. Whereas modernization theoristswould invariably this evidence of the failureof interpret as further efficientinstitutions take root in a ThirdWorldcontext.the police. 1984. at the bottomof the bureaucratic an interesting employeesoccupyingpositions pyramid. this is intendedto explainwhy government programsfail. Officialssuch as Sharmaji.between differentlevels of the administrative so hierarchy. one mightjust as easily turnthe to of character) the questionaroundand inquireinto the theoretical adequacy(andjudgmental concepts throughwhich such actions are described. the village development worker. Yet (and it is this seeminglycontradictory that we must fact that a always keep in mind) it is preciselythroughthe practicesof such local institutions translocal institution such as the statecomes to be imagined. He helps magnitudelargerthan his. courts-to marktheir "rationalized" and as office holdersin a bureaucratic activity apparatus.senior bureaucrats for this moneyfromtheirsubordinates well as directlyfromprojects they oversee. and Politiciansraise fundsthroughsenior bureaucrats electoral purposes. and for Thislatter It aspectcallsforelaboration. Itis forthis reason thatcorruption so much morevisibleat the lowerlevels.

some of the pages insidewill have entirelydifferent contents. devoted to the analysisof the discourseof corruption. they a constitute. however. 1982).Public Representations the stateareconstituted."33 blurred boundaries 385 .Thus. Gurevitch al.this man AlthoughRajiv was keenlyawareof all of hiscampaign LikemanyothersinAlipur. life. regionally the discourse of corruption in public culture drawsattentionto the powerfulcultural Analyzingthe discourseof corruption practicesby which the state is symbolicallyrepresented its employees and to citizens of the nation. 1980. into data Apartfromtheoreticalreasonsthat may be adducedto supportthe analysisof newspaper the of whetherregionalor national reports. moredeeply Treated with benignneglectby students contemporary they mysteriously of compromised.the narratives are a presentedin newspapers siftedthrough set of institutional are filters.lies newspapers. and especially to its historically and situatedcharacter.For reason the analysisof reportsin local and nationalnewspapers tells us a greatdeal aboutthe manner in which "thestate"comes to be imagined.but theirrepresentations not.Obviously.29 The importance the mediawas brought of home to me when. for that reasonalone. listenednightly he promises.newspapers Althoughradioand televisionobviouslyplay a significant are perhapsthe most important mechanismin public culturefor the circulation discourses of on corruption." newspapers to the rawmaterial for This necessary "thick" description. certainformof situatedknowledge. newspaperreports obtainedwithin"thefield. barelytwo monthsafterRajiv Gandhiwas elected primeminister late 1984. Sincenewspaper are filed reports invariably by locallyresident correspondents. importance all vernacular dailies. was well-informed international He on events and would often ask me detailedquestionsregarding events in the UnitedStatesor Iran.they have muchto offer to of formthrough which daily life is narrativized us.28 to of in do oral interviews. 1982.when seen as a majordiscursive and collectivitiesimagined. "Rajivhas failed.The nextsection is phenomenonto be labeled. a higher-caste in villageelder whose son was a businessmanwith close connectionsto the Congress(I) told me.discussed. in the fact thatthey carryspecialsectionsdevotedto local news."I was to surprised hear him say this and askedwhy he thoughtso.and denounced.perceiving them as havinga privilegedrelation the truth social life is naive. Hallet al.The "system" corruption of course not just a brutecollection of practiceswhose most of is widespreadexecution occurs at the local level. News about a particular can to area. cultureis a zone of cultural debateconductedthrough massmedia. into "field data" once they haveyellowedaround edgesandfallen the metamorphize invaluable at clearby whatalchemytimeturns "secondary" the apart the creases. contemporary role as mass media. Itis "thesite andstake" for this (Hall1982) of struggles cultural meaning.30 the studyof translocal In contribute phenomenasuchas "thestate. Gilroy1987."Rajiv promisedto in eradicatecorruption his campaignbut has it happened? hasn'tdone anything He aboutit." Gandhihad not visitedthe area aroundAlipurduringhis campaign. the visible practicesof institutions and such as the state (Appadurai 1990. if one picks up the same newspaperin two different cities in UttarPradesh.3 Andyet it is notentirely dataof the anthropologist the "primary" of the historian.therefore. only be obtainedby subscribing newspapers withinthatarea.othermechanical the modes of reproduction. to the BBCWorldService news broadcastin Hindias well as to the government-controlled nationalradio(Akaashvaanl). It is also a discursivefield that enables the decried. shouldbecomeevidentby comparing documents-to oral newspaperreports-conceptualizedas culturaltexts and sociohistorical interviews. and et 1988.practiced. He replied.32 These are distributed only in the regionto which the news applies.Of course.Inthis restricted abouta particular can only be area sense.andtransformed publicculture.Waites Appadurai Breckenridge et al.

The pay-offfora which affectseverysphereof life . Verma.P. the discourse of corruption became a 386 american ethnologist . one [politicalparty. the majority that [increasing felt corruption] class leaderfromGondapointedout thatpoliticians circles. citizen"and the state betweenthe "ordinary elaboratedthe relationship The articlefurther to with reference the roleof formalpoliticsand politicians: in stemmedfromthe growingcorruption political In U.emerged as the leader. Forexample..Andthe vastsumsexpendedon electionsare by a one-pointprogramme-tocapture there is no politics. Inits Corruption an issuedominated of the threenational of the decade.M.anotherMr.Itnotonly helpedto define"thepolitical" also served competition to Since this was done "thepublic"thatwas perceivedto be reacting corruption.went far beyond just settingthe termsof electoral but betweenpoliticalparties. however.the other[opposition (Times India1989:1).the widely readmetropolitan of Boforsand set out to establishhow the electorateviewed corruption. He had earlierbeen unceremoniously into cabinetbecause.the Timesof India.e. Thispoint will be demonstratedby firstlookingat a few examplesfromthe national."said AminchandAjmera.a Swedish administration In successful manufacturer.a obtained by unfairmeans. Singh. hadstarted investigation the "Bofors he an Gandhi's The was electorallyexplosivepreciselybecause it became a symbolof Affair.i." effectof Bofors at corruption all levels of the state.a backward todayaredriven powerat all costs. to constitute as to the largelythrough mass media.V.35RajivGandhi'selection in separatism November 1984 was fought largely on the slogans of the eradicationof corruptionand in the threatsfromSikhs. press We will see that local discoursesand practices linked were intimately concerningcorruption with the reportage found in vernacular and nationalnewspapers. and corruption dominatesan eventful decade" (Chawla1990:18). Bofors rationcardor a job does"(1989:1).37 this government example..we mustpay carefulattention newspapers culturaltexts of to the politicalculture the period. Clean."the subjectof corruption came undera cloud for allegedlyacceptingkickbacks fromBofors.English-language pressand then at vernacular mostly newspapers.The methodof studying stateadvancedin this articlerelatesthe discourseof corruption the in the vernacular English-language to statements and and madeby villagers stateofficials.Preciselybecause preserving nation'sintegrity the face of separatist latercame to haunthim as his he was initially dubbed"Mr.what is the harmin my taking64 paisaon a ticket?"36 The discourseof corruption. Bofors becamethe centerpieceof the opposition's small-arms his effortto overthrow regime. formal politics was not reduced to competition among political parties and the bureaucratic apparatus (where payoffs for jobs are given) was not confused with the regime (where the benefits of Bofors presumably went)...34 as two electionsheld in the 1980s. fact.attempted analyze surveys.Ina seriesof majorpreelection clues thatgive us important to English daily. P. booted out of Rajiv P.which pointedout how the resourcesbeing allocatedby the central the poor In in were being misusedby the stategovernment MadhyaPradesh(1989). the politicalimpact "If One of its articlesbegins by quoting a villagerwho remarked. Instead.Inthe electionsof 1989.Clean. party] Congress] the The articlewent on to say: "Whether Congressis in power or the opposition makes no to difference the common man and woman who has to contendwith proliferating corruption doesn'tbrushagainsttheirlives. the fortnightly news magazineIndiaTodayheadlinedthe section on summary "The'80s: Politics"in the following manner:"Thepoliticsof communalism. "IfRajiv Gandhican take 64 crorein bribes.the conductoron the notoriouslyinefficient UttarPradeshState Roadwaysbus justifiednot returning change to me by saying. "Withoutcorruption of fromBhopal. of is a cobra" is a poisonoussnake.[Times India1989:1] businessman schemeto help in was Thethemeof corruption prominent an articleon a centralgovernment in IndiaToday. in which a non-Congress government came to powerforonly the second time in 43 yearsof defense minister.

The reason lay in the structural readership.38 pursuestoriesof corruption Forexample. nothinghas been done. newspapers metropolitan with local bureaucracies chiefly in the lettersof complaintwrittenby citizensabout featuring and the clearlydelineated multilayered particularly presstherefore city services. The Hindinewspapers smalltowns and largevillagesdottingthe countryside. dailieswithinthe "core" of the nationalEnglish-language regions-the a maintained richer and newspapers high politics. the functionof the pressappearedto exploitedby blurred boundaries 387 .Bycontrast. education.the articleon the tuberculosis and for each step (Rs. the daily Aaj had headlines such as the following: "Police Busy Warming Own Pockets" (1989a).The vernacular was necessarilyfocused natureof the state because theirreportage sense of the multilayered to which corresponded lowerlevelsof the statehierarchy. 5 forthe compounder. extorting money were particularly Two featuresof these reports striking. 10 forthe doctor.specificdepartments unitary as well. on events in different localities. Rashtriya Sahaara. They could not. so on) in a free to treatment was supposed be provided of charge.Thearticleon the landconsolidation that officernamed him and statedhow much money he demandedin bribesfromspecificfarmers the (also named).educated. reportedthat corruptemployees of the telephone departmenttold customersthat they could go ahead and complain as much as they wanted.5 for a test.40 customers' telephoneswould not work. and "Farmers Harassed by Land was the state(sarkaa)invokedas a Official"(1989d) shortreport subsidizedrations sugarand kerosene of to statedthatthe dealerwho hadthe contract distribute and of market withpoliticalprotection the fullknowledge regional was sellingthemon the black To Work. For statedexactlyhow muchmoneywas "charged" hospital example. Similarly. orientationsmost commonly read in the Mandi area: Aaj. simultaneously ignoreevents at the higher levels of state (region)and focusedalmostexclusivelyon large-scale nation.Inall of them. There were significant differences between the magazinesand newspapersmentionedabove. Feed Them anotherstory." pluricentric of readmostlyby the residents the with limitedregionalcirculations.or "simplefarmers" the landconsolidationofficer. Rs. or "thecitizens"(naagarik) were harassed or "thepeople"(log)whose clear accusationagainstthe hospitalwas by blackmarketeering. B. "To Get Telephone (Aaj 1989b). the vernacular urban centersof capital.and veryoftenspecificpeople entity.They made a practiceof explicitly monolithicorganization The vernacular of press also seemed to namingspecific departments the state bureaucracy. Hospital" (1989e). DainikJaagran. In none of these reports Consolidation were named. and construction the public. withgreaterzeal than its metropolitan counterpart.39 "Plunder in T."was a familiarrefrainin the fact were."Despiteseveralcomplaintsby citizens to the head of the region. much less prone to reify the state as a with a single chain of command. Rs.I examinedthe local editionsof six Hindi newspaperswith different political Amar Ujaala.Similarly. news story on the police reportedthat a specific precinctwas to fromvehicle ownersby threatening issue boguscitations. Hindustan. unless the the sweetmeats. as opposed to the many "national" Hindi dailies such as the Navbharat Times. but. English-language location and "middle-class" press.administration.constructedin public means by which a fairlycomplex pictureof the statewas symbolically culture.First. who were ruthlessly kisaan) (bholaay-bhaalaay given voice in the paper. and Jansatta. got telephoneworkers theirfavorite The second noteworthy featurein regionalnewspaperaccountswas theiremphasison. with theirurban. who thatwas being openly exploitedby the police.Thevernacular natureof "thestate. supervisors Sweets" (Aaj 1989c). however.state officialshigherup the to and were oftendepictedas completelyunresponsive complaints even as complicit hierarchy with the corruptpractices. In addition. events.In all cases.A common discursivepracticewas to talkof "thepublic"(janata) of. They also documentedin greatdetailexactly what these corrupt practiceswere.

powerless. they simultaneously multiplypositioned The employ. convincingly radio.the massmediais notthe only important press. mannerin which theseofficialsnegotiate tensionsinherent theirlocationin theirdailypracticesbothhelps the in to createcertainrepresentations the stateand powerfully of shapesassessmentsof it. First."They aboutspreading of rumours we can'tfightthemeffectively. and and assessments whethera particular of courseof Thus.more often.especiallywhen agenciesof the statetransgress behavior.standards accountability..Policeand administration of officialsrepeatedly voice theirfrustration their inability counter"wildstories" "rumors" contestand at to and that contradict officialversionof events.culturally is emphasis saturated of amalgam thatof creating space inwhichthe grievances the massescouldbe airedandthe common a of good (janhit)pursued." of discoursesof corruption necessarilymediated are Subjects' deployment location(thispoint is developedfurther below).44 The other face of a discourseof corruption. and employees (securein the knowledgethatthey could not be fired)who treated citizenswithcontempt. The presswas of course doing much morethan simplyairingpreexisting grievances. and normsof conduct for state officials.43 (Mitra such as newspapers."46 Sometimesthese standards normsconverge. and go Theserumours crowds.. ordinary people. thereby In its legitimacy. one looksat newspapers if fromdifferent and regionsof a discourseof accountability.come fromsocial groupsas well as from"thestate. and are subjectto.presence.itwould be clearthat the postcolonialstatehas itselfgeneratednew discoursesof accountability.of multiplelevelsof authority.The stateconstructed here was one thatconsistedof widely disparateinstitutions with littleor no coordination none of which were accountableto amongthem.and television.wide variations to be found withinthe are published vernacular sourceforthe circulation Second.I foreground newspapers' the funcrepresented tions in order to draw attentionto the rhetoricalstrategydeployed by the mass media to to galvanizeintoactioncitizenswho expect stateinstitutions be accountableto them.45 in the rightplace when he saysthat"accountability a sociallyproduced. if in from Moreover.Expectations "right" of of behavior.Andthe agitated crowdthenturnson the police.these reports createdsubjects41 were At also who as being exploited. corruption is a violation of norms and standards of mustkeep two caveats in of representations mindat all times.42 of representations "thestate"in publicculture. provoking helpgather a clash"(Mitra Ahmed1989:12).. in other languages(forexample. Butstateofficialsare also by their structural within differentregimesof power:in consequence.rumorcannotbe controlledby simplyclampingdown on the sourceof production(Coombe 1993). they do not. [whose]meaningisculturally . [andwhose] management personalor collective identitycannot breakfree of of specific social experience"(1992a:47). By definition. one were to documentthe transformations the discourseof corruption colonialtimes to the present(a projectbeyondthe scope of this article)."Thesense of pervasive to such as Indiamight corruption a country then itselfbe a consequenceof the changesin the discourseof accountability promulgated by 388 american ethnologist . Actionstolerated or consideredlegitimate undercolonial rulemay be classifiedas "corrupt" the rule-making by apparatusesof the independentnation-statebecause an electoral democracy is deemed in accountable "thepeople. I have sharplydifferentiated English-language vernacular the and Although press in their of "thestate"and the construction subjects. the sametime.thereare alwaysdivergent conflicting action is "corrupt. Urdu).The "bushtelegraph" and [sic] spreadsrumors quicklyand Unlikeothertechnologiesof communication 1989). quite varyingdiscoursesof otherwords.. fact. Rumorthereforebecomes an especially effective vehicle to local standards of challengeofficialaccounts.Policeofficialsin an adjoining the district quotedinthe are Times Indiaas saying. struggles legitimacy be interpreted termsof the effort for in can affecting to construct stateand "thepublic"symbolically a particular the in manner.andpolity. Herzfeldputs the therefore.and outraged.

It in 1990)." [Timesof India1989:7] So far. polity. to the of they deploy the discourseof corruption undermine credibility against the stateandto attackthe mannerin which government organizations operate.a formerprimeminister who consistentlymounted bias"of statepolicies. policedemandbribes don'tregister The and of complaints scheduled caste people likeme.these groupsseek to stabilizethe of conditionsforthe reproduction theirdominance. scheduledcaste resident Ashanwad hamlet.The discourseof corruption. addition. civil society constructed specificideologicalfields.Forit isthrough and suchrepresentations.51 only partof the government see is the police stationfourkms. politicalsociety-are all culturally (Kligman is hence imperativethat we constantlycontextualizethe constructionof the state within I historical cultural and as particular conjunctures. thisnewfound of But prosperous into bureaucratic wealth has yet to be translated and culturalcapital.48 The roleof the KisanUnionfurther in highlights significant regionalvariations the discourse of corruption. respectively. the imagined state a of Banwari. One of the reasons era. led Thismovement agrarian was firstled by Chaudhary CharanSingh. regionwhereMandiis located.Itis now been givena new directionbythe Kisan an attackon the "urban The Unionled by Mahendar castesin thisregionhavebecomefairly SinghTikait. The as the postcolonialstateconsciouslysets out to createsubjectpositionsunknownduring colonial era:"citizenship" does not justmarkinclusivenessin a territorial domainbut indicatesa set of investedin subjectswho inhabit nation.Thediscourseof corruption here functionsas a diagnosticof the state."Theythusplace new responsibilities on stateemployeesand vest new rightsin subjectswho are then constituted citizens. the KisanUnion has been very successful in amonglowerlevels peasantsagainstthe stateby focusingon the issueof corruption organizing of the bureaucracy. "Ihaven'tseen the vidhansabhaor the LokSabha. by those actionsthatconstitutean infringement such rights. they enable a certain construction of the state that meshes the imagined translocal institution with its localized blurred boundaries 389 . The I frommyhouse. markedand delineatedfromotherorganizations institutions social life. and throughthe public practicesof variousgovernment thatthe state comes to be agencies. Together.has been the center the of verysuccessful mobilizations by the classof well-to-dopeasants.Becausetheyperceivethe stateto be acting theirinterests.In postcolonialnationalists. of thus acts to represent the marking of rights citizensto themselves.Andthatis corrupt.significant changes duringthe postcolonialperiodhave of and arisenfromthe pressures electoralpolitics(asevidencedby the Bofors controversy) from peasant mobilization. society. The state itself and in and whateveris construedto stand apartfrom it-community. in withinregionsand duringthe Althoughthere are variations the discourseof corruption a transition. this article has dealt with the practices of local levels of the bureaucracy and the discourses of corruption in public culture.47 of the crucialingredients the One theoretically rights of of discourses citizenshipin a populistdemocracysuchas Indiahasbeen thatstateemployees are consideredaccountableto "thepeople"of the country. postcolonial the end of colonialismconstitutes significant as for this is that nationalist opposed to colonial regimesseek the kindof popularlegitimacy thatwill enable them to act in the name of "thepeople.25 kms.In the Mandi region. have employedthe discourseof corruption a meansto demonstrate the statecomes to be imaginedin one such historical cultural how and context.fromJaipur said.49 landowning as they havebeen the chief beneficiaries the greenrevolution.In otherwords. power given the centralrole thatstate institutions play in rurallife.50 The discourseof corruption centralto our understanding the relationship is of betweenthe stateand social groupspreciselybecause it playsthisdual roleof enablingpeople to construct the statesymbolically to definethemselvesas citizens. WesternUttarPradesh.

Iwill definitely supportthe Congress (I).the investigation always is is conductedby an officialof a higherrank. his son intervened: The Congress is for all the poor. "Whydoesn't it do I Ram anything?" Singhreplied: Itdoes know a little bit but not everything. in Theyhad recentlyacquireda televisionset as partof the dowry receivedinthe marriage one of the sons. for of not everyoneimaginesthe statein quitethe same manner. otherwords.Whatis the processwherebythe "reality" of translocal entitiescomes to be experienced? To answerthis question.(Boththe and pumpsetsused for irrigation the televisionset were dependenton erraticand occasional of electricity. If it weren't for the Congress.52 He is paying really close attention to the needs of poor people [Bahut gaur kar raha hain]. is being constructedhere in the imagination in and everydaypracticesof ordinary culture" people. At this point. The government is making full efforts to help the poor.) Television a constantpointof referencein RamSingh's was conversation."Forexample. It is exerting itself to the utmost. the government sets aside four lakhs for a scheme. this When a complaintof corruption lodgedagainsta local official.Higherofficialsarethusseen as providing redressals forgrievancesand punishinglocal officialsfor corrupt behavior.they would all sit down and watchtelevision. I thinkthat one can thanthe adequately explainRamSingh'soutlookby examiningcontemporary practicesrather sedimentation beliefs. insteadof irrigating crop. the officials in the middle eat it all [beech mey sab khaa jaate hain]. He is an older. Not even god looks after us. "Doesn'tthe governmentknows that officials are corrupt?" asked.scheduled-caste manwhose householdnow owns imagines 390 american ethnologist .or the that modalities. hierarchical visionof the in such views.54 whereasthe Typically. not just for the lower castes. The reason is that the voice of the poor doesn't reach people at the top [Garibon ki awaaz vahaan tak pahuchti nahin].which represents one of the most important modalities the discursiveconstruction "thestate. since the televisionhad arrived that theirfarmworkhad suffered the because. local official is seen as corrupt. only one lakh will actually reach us-the rest will be taken out in the middle. in a confessionbornof a mixture of of prideand embarrassment.this is exactlywhat "corporate and nationalism they makepossible and then naturalize construction such nonlodo: the of calizable institutions. Of course.So far."Obviously. for example. Forthis reason. If. We consider the government which supports us small people as if it were our mother and father [Usi ko ham maa-baap key samaan maantey hain]. RamSingh's case reminds thatall constructions the statehaveto be situated us of withrespect to the locationof the speaker.RamSinghandhis sons are relatively men prosperous fromone of the lowestcastes (jatav) Alipur.RamSingh'sparticular us understand position helps why he the stateas he does.53 RamSingh'spositionheredisplayssome continuity with an older. supplies I interviewed RamSinghin the contextof the impending elections (theelectionstook place in December1989. RamSinghtold me. only the Congress.He said: The public is singing the praises of Rajiv [Gandhi].55 of One shouldlook at practicesof the statethatreinforce outlook. but the officials don't allow any of the schemes to reach the poor. trying to draw people into [government] jobs [Bahutjor laga rahen hain. the conversation dates fromlateJuly). While this may very well be the case. the rulerappearsas benevolentand charitable state. RamSinghreturned the discussion: to Although the government has many good schemes.embodiments. makeit possibleto imaginethe state.The mustgraspthe pivotalrole of publicculture. no one would pay any attention to the smaller castes [choteejaat]. naukri mein khichai kar rahen hain]. Rajiv has been traveling extensively in the rural areas and personally finding out the problems faced by the poor.very littleresearch been has done on the relationship betweendiverselylocatedgroupsof people and theiremployment of the different mediaof representation of varyingresourcesof culturalcapitalin imagining and "thestate.It then becomes very importantto understand mechanisms.

motives. historically supported is of one Thefirst impresses aboutRamSingh'sinterpretation "thestate" how clearly thingthat as its he understands composition an entitywith multiplelayersanddiverselocalesandcenters. The second strikingfact about Ram Singh's testimony is that apart from his nuanced his and multilayered institution.he is clearlydrawing iv's on familiarity on a mass-mediated of what that upper-levelof government knowledge comprises.higherbureaucrats. This way [i. a key symbolof upwardmobility. Only thatcould explainwhy his sons in have succeeded in obtaininghighly prized governmentjobs despite their neglect by local schoolteachers theirill-treatment local officials. RamSingh'swords revealthe important that nationalmedia play in part play "local" discourseson the state. and what kinds of policies and programsthey are agents responsible promoting. and reproducedin the work of officialsof international and academics. by above the one thathe has alwaysdealt with (the thatthereare severallayersof "government" and levelscan exert Minister Gandhi).Doordarshan. Singhreproduces apologeticsforthe failureof policy (theformulation foundin India's "middle that all right. spent of that the it was not justthe country was being imaginedon televisionthrough representation its differentparts but also the national state throughthe image of "its"leader. mostof the nightlynewscastfollowingRajivGandhion his campaigntours." and by andwitha first-person aboutRaj efforts behalfof the poor.57 Singhmaintains He a distinctionbetweenthe regimeand the bureaucracy. analysisclosely descriptionof the state as a disaggregated on the state that is disseminatedby the mass media and is therefore parallelsa discourse of the RamSingh's translocal.60 apparent Rather. exampledemonstrates importance publiccultureinthe discursive of about"thepublic's" of construction the state:he talksknowledgeably perception Rajivand all His son's perceptionof the Congressas being "for the poor"clearlyalso of Rajiv's of the five televisionsets in the village.the government-controlled televisionnetwork..Obviously.e.and the jatavsin particular. sources.those that affect a scheduled-casteperson like him).what we see from this example is the articulationbetween (necessarilyfractured) of hegemonic discoursesand the inevitablysituatedand interestedinterpretations subaltern RamSingh's lead himto believethattheremustbe government subjects. sees the regime'sgood intentions RamSinghhas a sense towardthe lowercastesbeingfrustrated venal stateofficials.Yet when he talksabout"thepublic. by watching television].it is not possibleto deduce RamSingh'sunderstanding with the bureaucracy." delivered by politiciansbelongingto the regime in power. it is thathe is notmerelyparroting reports obtainsfrom the he televisionandnewspapers. Ram the Although wordfor regimeand state is the same in Hindi(sarkaar). of "the state"entirelyfrom his personal interactions conversely. and two of them have obtained relativelygood governmentjobs as a have The consequence.59 Inthe buildupto the elections.Clearly. everyday experiences officialsand agencies (whose presence. about how other people live. we get a little more worldly [Kuch duniyaadaari seekh laayten hain]. is an Ram Interestingly. Popular in of are fieldwherethe massmedia understandings the statetherefore constituted a discursive a criticalrole.and actions are represented him through to the mass media)interested helpingpeople like him. we learn a little bit about the outside world.Clearly. about the differentpartsof India. owes a greatdeal to mass-mediated thatthe close associationwith RajivGandhiand the explanationaboutthe My suspicion middlelevelsof the statewas influencedby the impactof televisiongainedforcewhen corrupt one of his sons explained:58 We are illiterate people whose knowledge would be confined to the village.61 blurred boundaries 391 .56 scheduledcastes of this area in general. thatthe different Rajiv by verytop personified then-Prime opposing pulls on policy (specifically.who the for its actions is the implementors areto blame)pervasively classes.Severalof his sons are educated. successiveCongressregimes. sympathetic agencies.

and transnational of phenomena.and the KisanUnion. conclusion In this article I have focused on discoursesof corruptionin public cultureand villagers' encounters with localgovernment in institutions orderto worktoward ethnography an everyday of the state in contemporary India. of Accordingly. explains his At with local supportfor the higherechelons of government. whichIhaveattempted explorethosethatIconsidercentral to any understanding stateinstitutions practices. of the allows us to see the modalities whichthe state Foregrounding questionof representation by 392 american ethnologist . regional.62 Forinstance.64All the ethnographicdata presented in this article-the cases of Sharmaji. Thethirdimportant advancedin thisarticle.and centersthatresistsstraightforward analyticalclosure. if he seems to sharewith the middle-classa view of the failure government of it of particular programs. we should leave open the analyticalquestionas to the conditions underwhich the state does operate as a cohesive and unitarywhole. Bureaucrats. agendas. and the reports the vernacularpress-point to a recognitionof multiple agencies.also tied to the significance public of argument culturefor an analysisof the state.RamSingh. his interaction officialshastaughthimthatthey. havestressed roleof publicculturein the discursive the withthe studyof the everydaypractices lower of Bringing analysisof publiccu turetogether levelsof the bureaucracy how of entitiescomes to be helpsus understand the reality translocal felt by villagersand officials. with local officials and by the translocalimaginingof the state made possible by viewing television." only numerous situatedknowledges(Haraway for 1988).he has a keen sense of the differencesamong differentlevels of the state.likethepowerful men inthe villages.havelittleorno sympathy for lower-castepeople like him.RamSingh's well-to-dolower-caste positionas a relatively person. officialreports.whose family has benefited from rules regarding employmentquotas for scheduled castes. the same time.Rather thantakethe notionof "thestate"as a pointof departure.Thereis obviouslyno Archimedean pointfromwhichto visualize"thestate. so forth. importance the massmediashould The of respect the particular not blind us to the differences exist in the way that diverselysituatedpeople imaginethe that state. newspaper of and dealingswith particular government agencies.fromthe mass media. has to do with the discursiveconstruction the state.the pronouncements politicians.haveargued anyanalysis the staterequires to conceptualizea space that that of us is constitutedby the intersection local.Itis thereforeimportant situatea certainsymbolicconstruction the statewith to contextinwhichitis realized. The second major problemaddressedin this article concerns the translocality state of I institutions. imagineit throughstatistics and (Hacking1982). of and Thefirstproblemhasto do withthe reification inherent unitary in of descriptions "thestate.national. his son indicates.levels. tours.On the other hand. becomes and the clear that it mustbe conceptualizedin termsfar more decentralizedand disaggregated than has been the case so far. Constructions the stateclearlyvaryaccordingto the mannerin which different of actorsare to of positioned. is the result the convergenceof what he has learnedfromhis everydayencounterswith the "state" with what he has discerned. is why he callsthe Congress government his guardians and with (maa-baap) blamesthe officialsin the middlefor not followingthrough RamSingh's view of the statethus is shapedbothby hisown encounters government programs.Congressrhetoricabout being the partyof the poor with RamSingh's that obviouslyresonates experience. I the construction the state.Sucha studyraisesa largenumberof complexconceptual andmethodological of to problems. Therefore. from Sripal.whereascitizensdo so through stories."63 Whenone analyzesthe mannerin whichvillagers officialsencounter state.

Inshort.66 imagining identity Thefinalquestionthatthisarticleaddresses concernspoliticalactionand activism. settings(Guptaand Ferguson The fourthsignificantpoint.polity. films.and Eastern Europe). and collaboration with "thestate.Anystruggle of against blurred boundaries 393 . groupings-citizens.interest groups. circulationof culturalproducts-television and radio programs.Africa.includingpractices public culturehelps us arriveat a historically specific and ideologicallyconstructedunderof "thestate. which attendsto the historicaland cultural specificity of constructions the state. therefore not employ the notion I did groups of "civilsociety.I focus on the modalitiesthat enable the state (and. however.ethnicgroups. tensionbetween legitimacy is for with in the interstate systemand autonomyand sovereignty intensifying nation-states the transnational The accelerating continued movementtoward an increasingly public sphere.Rather.concerns that should be included in the field of appliedanthropology.the In is unhelpfulin thinkingof strategies politicalstruggle. a patternof extensive crisscrossing markets(exemplifiedby the European Union). videos. the context of the state. the same time. or shouldbe. bringstheir substantialsimilaritiesinto sharp relief. 1986b).dependent as it is on particular context of nation-states into account."Thereis no reasonto assumethatthere is. and farmers For organizations. a unitary entitythat standsapartfrom. the purposesof my argument.and the restructuring of in LatinAmerica. has to do with vigilance towardthe imperialism the Western of of Rather than begin with the notionsof state and civil society thatwere conceptualapparatus.politicalparties."which usuallyfillssuch a need. in this analysisof the discoursesof corruption in India. these discoursesdo not operatehomogeneously with they articulate to distinctivehistoricaltrajectories formunique hybridizations creolizationsin different and 1992)."condenses" Hal contradictions (Hall1981.The discourseof corruption accountability togetherconstitute mechanismthroughwhich the Indianstate came to be discursivelyconstructedin public variesa greatdeal fromone culture. tradeunions. Looking everyday of representation. groups. for collaboration/resistance dichotomy Thereasonis thatsuch a grossbifurcation does notallow one to takeadvantage the factthat of the stateis a formation as Stuart Iputsit. the of Whenthis is tied to the reduction tradebarriers. news. the representations (state)practicein and of practices. has to conformat represent nationin the international legitimately to of The leastminimally the requirements a modernnation-state. What I have triedto emphasize in this articleis thatthe very sameprocessesthatenableone to construct statealso helpone to imaginetheseothersocial the communities 1990). is not a concept indigenouslyinvoked in the variousprocessesof it that I have describedhere.65In order that a state may it a systemof nation-states. forgedon the anvil of European history. audio books. thatwhich is not the state)to be discursively constructed.Takingthe international grammars however. These complex culturaland ideological interconnections (Appadurai are in coursesof corruption (andhence of accountability) fromthe verybeginningarticulated of a fieldformedby the intersection manydifferent transnational forces. that. 1986a. worldwidedebtcrisis(especiallyvisible offshoreproduction.Furthermore. of public culture. capital."we mustinspectphenomena whose boundaries not coincide with those of the nation-state.negotiation. emerges reveal that dis1990).It mustbe kept in mindthatthe discourseof corruption historicaltrajectories and the specific countryto another."one thatis mutuallyexclusive and jointly exhaustiveof the social space. at simultaneously. socialgroups(Bourdieu 1985).subnational classes. "thestate. (Chatterjee civil society. fashions-has been predicatedon giganticshiftsin multinational recordings.and one comes to be imagined. do At acrossthe understand how discoursesof corruption symbolicallyconstruct"thestate. coalitions. assemblingthese into some overarching relationwas unnecessary. It also hides fromview the fact thatthere is no positionstrictlyoutside or insidethe statebecausewhat is beingcontestedis the terrain the ideologicalfield.and in oppositionto."Such an analysissimultaneously considersthose othergroupingsand standing that institutions are imaginedin the processesof contestation.

" Whatis at stakeis nothingless thana transformation in the mannerinwhichthe statecomes to be constructed. 1993. might notes Mani.itdoes so infactonlyto removeall discussion empowerment (1990) JimFerguson Yet horizon(hencethe titleof his book. Mankekar. equal partsthin fiction and brutefact.programs. and to Fulbright-Haysfor supporting fieldwork in the summer of 1989 and the 1991-92 academic year. allowspeople anddiscourses "thestate" of in contradictions the policies.inside/outside. and agendasof "thestate"butalso the contestedterrain departments. 1990. is a struggle problematizes It that the historical divide betweenthose who choose to do politicalwork"within" stateand those the who work"outside" becausethe cultural construction the statein publicculturecan result of it. grateful Purnima 394 american ethnologist . development. possibilities the moment. February8.I neitherintendto modesof engagementnor to belittlethe often politically underequatedifferent sophisticated that standings practitioners bringto theiractivities. Elizabeth Perry. notas a momentof arrival. Many interestingquestions were raised at presentations at StanfordUniversity. developmentalism/revolution. some of which will have to await the development of a much longer manuscript. TheAnti-Politics fromthe discursive Machine).Don Moore. October 12.68see criticalreflection the discourse Evenas for of developmentas a pointof departure politicalaction. University of Washington. I am also grateful for the input received from seminar participants at the MIT Center for InternationalStudies and the Anthropology Colloquium at the University of California. February8-11.both in equal measure. policyanalysis/class struggle. 1992. to Escobar we begin to see thatwe need. focuseson the goal of delivering of hasargued. my analysisof "thestate"leadsto the vanguardism to conclusionthatwe can attempt exploitthe contradictory processesthatgo intoconstituting the "it.we mustrememberhow unstableand fragilethis self-representation and how it could alwaysbe otherwise. John Peters. Acknowledgments. Jane Collier. on I for to createpossibilities politicalactionandactivism. 1993. thatthe phenomenonof statefetishism is emerges. institutions. NH. and three anonymous reviewers for detailed comments.All I wish to emphasizeis thatone's theory for of "thestate" does greatlymatterin formulating strategies politicalaction. I have shown how the discourseof corruption helps those "thestate". live only halfas long. Gramscihas calledthe "warof position. And it is here that seizing on the fissuresand ruptures. Irvine. Columbia University." Thesecontradictions only address divergent not pullsexertedbythe multipleagencies. 1990. as Arturo (1992) has felicitouslyput it.of involvesa cultural what currently hegemonicconfigurations poweranddomination struggle. DavidNugent. the two the are not mutuallyexclusive. of that of opportunism. I am grateful to the Fritz Endowment of the School of InternationalStudies. It has benefited from the critical comments of participantsof the SSRC/ACLS JointCommittee on the Near & Middle East's"Vocabulariesof the State"workshop in Hanover.Forexample.Justas Gramsci's notionof hegemonyled himto believethat1917 may have been the lastEuropean exampleof so (whathe calledthe "warof maneuver"). on of One way to thinkaboutstrategies politicalaction. If and narrative statistical public representation.67 "machinery" developan initialdistinctionbetween As entitlements."69 poor. March 24-25. atthe sametime itcan potentially construct empowercitizensby marking yet activitiesthatinfringe theirrights.the otheroutside). Bypointingoutthatadvocatesof appliedworkandthose who favoractivistintervention may sometimesunintentionally share a common projectof reifying"thestate"and then locating themselveswith respectto that totality(the one inside. respectively. Atul Kohli. ment. it is preciselyin these practicesof historical in abstraction.and affect. February22.Keynes strategies are aliveto the conjunctural The that"inthe long runwe areall dead.with itselaborateyet repetitivelogic. of levels. I economistsand utopians servedto remind add.Lata Iam to JamesFerguson. organizations.aboutsuch dichotomiesas applied/acisto and tivist. alternatives we mustlearnnotto scoffata plebeianpolitics andnotdevelopment alternatives. and the University of Pennsylvania. This article was originally presented at a workshop on State-Society Relations at the University of Texas at Austin. from. draw of The entitlement and empowerment.

3. Ten rupees would be enough to buy a hearty nonvegetarian lunch at a roadside restaurant for one person or one kilogram of high quality mangoes. but not enough for a pair of rubber slippers. Like all the other names in this article. however." 4. I find JudithButler's(1990) concept of gender as performance very useful in thinking about this issue. 18. Such an analysis has important implications for political action. I use it to refer to the effects of hegemonic representations of the West ratherthan its subjugated traditions. That figure is misleading. which came to be known as the Bofors Affair. At the exchange rate prevailing at the time of the incident in 1989. In addition. It implies furtherthat "First" spaces (Ahmad 1987). 13.000 was allocated for such projects.."The officials at the Block office told me. owing to the sensitive nature of this material. 1 7. Similar questions were raised earlier by Nader (1972:306-307). as it suggests that the struggle for hegemony is built into the construction of the state. Since the word "federal" is rarely used in India. 22. 5. 1981) develops a call made by scholars such as Nader (1972) to "study up. Yet this silence is. this too is a pseudonym. Handelman's work (1978. 8. Like other government officials.1. 24. particularly as it emphasizes that the agents involved are not following a cultural script governed by rule-following behavior. This point has been made by ParthaChatterjee(1990) in response to Charles Taylor (1990). I will henceforth omit quotation marks except at points where I want to draw attention explicitly to the reified nature of the object denoted by that term.. not to a geographical space. $1 = Rs. 7. "the West" is obviously not a homogenous and unified entity. as Handelman has observed. has largely ignored the practices of bureaucracy. Handler's work (1985) very nicely demonstrates how these struggles work out in the case of objects that the regional government of Quebec wants to designate as the region's patrimoine. "central.400 (approximately $215) per year for the 1992-93 fiscal year. Herzfeld remarks:"Thusanthropology. blurred boundaries 395 ." and attempts to do for bureaucracies what ethnographers such as Rohlen (1974. with its propensity to focus on the exotic and the remarkable. 6. the client in effect handed Verma the equivalent of 56 cents. his recent book (1993) restates it and develops the argument further. I will thus capitalize it to highlight its problematic status. Headmen are neither considered part of the administration nor the grassroots embodiment of political parties. allegedly involved a kickback in a gun ordered by the Indian government from a Swedish manufacturer. for 15. 1983) have done for other institutions such as banks and schools. that is. the number in the circle varying from three to a dozen depending on their populations. the village development worker is subject to frequent transfers. 25. 16. I am definitely not saying that empirical research needs to be abandoned. 6. that a sum of Rs. and no concrete proof was ever uncovered." 19. in which he tackles this question head on. 3. See the excellent concluding chapter of his monograph of the working class in Bengal (1989). 9. I am grateful to Don Moore for emphasizing this point to me. See the articles by Mitchell (1989) and Taussig (1992) on this matter. I therefore use the term simply to refer. The term "ThirdWorld" encapsulates and homogenizes what are in fact diverse and heterogenous and "Third"worlds exist as separate and separable realities (Mohanty 1988). 21. however. but to a particularhistorical conjuncture of place. a remarkableomission" (1992a:45).000 of the total cost is given as a loan that has to be paid back in 20 installments stretching across ten years. Naturally. since it does not indicate purchasing power. 20. See also Achille Mbembe's (1992) wonderful article for its suggestive use of newspaper reports. Michael Woost's (1993) fine essay also addresses similar questions. In a similar manner. A phenomenon that Johannes Fabian (1983) calls "allochronism. 18. The village development worker is a functionary of the regional government who is responsible for the implementation of "development programs"in a small circle of villages. Itshould be obvious that I am making a distinction between an empiricist epistemology and empirical methods. a royal court. 11. I will refer to it by its Indian equivalent. 2. Iam gratefulto Dipesh Chakrabarty firstbringingthis to my attention. the identities and occupations of all the people mentioned here have been altered beyond recognition. I use the term "hold court"because Sharmaji'smode of operation is reminiscent of an Indian darbaar." 14. The headman is an official elected by all the registered voters of a village. This level was defined as least once every three years.What gave the scandal such prominence is that it was widely believed that the kickback went to highly placed members of the government and the Congress party. perhaps even the prime minister. although they may play important roles in representing the village to bureaucratic and party institutions. 8. I later learned that Rs.the ruling partydid not pursue the investigation with great enthusiasm. and knowledge. Instead of adopting the cumbersome technique of putting "the state" in quotation marks throughout the text. The largerproject has a significant oral historical and archival dimension as well as a wider sampling of the various media. 12. Political parties rarely participate in village elections in the sense that candidates do not representnational or regional partieswhen contesting these elections. The phrase is LataMani's (1989).. power. It rejects the reification of the state inherent both in vanguardist movements that seek to overthrow "it"and reformistmovements that seek to work within "it. 10. 23. Sripalclaimed to know the exact amount by consu ting "people who can read and write. The scandal.

Rs.. is met with a high degree of skepticism.6 cents. since it is both externally derived and rhetorically factual." respectively. This analysis of newspapers looks at connections between local and transnational discourses of corruption but not at the links between transnational capital and local newspapers. I have deliberately avoided use of the term "public sphere" in this article. the rise of capitalism. To have explored the implications of the full chain of mediations for each ethnographic example would have taken the article far afield in too many differentdirections and made it lose its focus.26. the impact of newspapers goes far beyond the literatepopulation as news reportsare orally transmittedacross a wide range of groups.with a few notable exceptions. kingly rule. although none of the locally distributed newspapers (English-language or vernacular) are even partially owned by transnational corporations. in press). 64 crore = $36 million. The symbolic representation of the state is as yet largely unexplored territory. "Attacking 'the state' and 'bureaucracy' (often furtherreified as 'the system') is a tactic of social life. Itis there that critical. because everyone concerned knows that it is the mouthpiece of the government. Herzfeld has issued a warning that we would do well to heed: "We cannot usefully make any hard-and-fastdistinctions between ruraland urban. remains limited in its coverage of India in that it remains focused on major stories and hence lacks the detail and specificity of newspaper accounts. however. transnational radio. 396 american ethnologist . including the state. the larger discourses about Greece's place in the world both feed and draw nourishment from the opinions expressed in the tiniest village" (1992b:11 7). I wanted to stress that we not forget that the detailed analysis of everyday life is overdetermined by transnational influences.. has demonstrated how the ImperialAssemblage of 1877 enabled the British colonial state to represent its authority over India at the same time as it made "manifest and compelling the [colonial] sociology of India" (1987b:658). illiterateand learned (or at least journalistic). the press is relatively autonomous and frequently critical of "the state. Doordarshan. not an analytical strategy. BernardCohn. 64 paise was equal to 3. Although literacy rates are relatively low throughout the region. Forthose unfamiliarwith the Indian context. many of them depend on multinational wire service bureaus for international news. I wish to thank an anonymous reviewer for raisingthese stimulating questions. See also Nicholas Dirks's study of a small. 40. 38. denotes a particular historical and cultural formation shaped by feudalism. this notion of the "public sphere" is not particularly helpful. Failureto recognize this is to essentialize essentialism. For example.. Since the argument that follows raises doubts about the wholesale import of these categories to the particularcontext being analyzed. the intrusionof media language into village discourse has largely been ignored" (1992b:94). This is a task that I propose to undertake in a full-length monograph. for instance. and the dominant role of the church as an institutionthat is not replicated in the same form elsewhere in the world. I would like to thank Joel Migdal for pointing this out to me. I should hasten to add that I am by no means implying that "the West" is unique in possessing a space for public debate and would lead us to ignore the multiplicity of sins covered by the monolithic stereotypes of 'the bureaucracy' and 'the state'" (1992a:45). Corruptionalso figures prominently in the vernacular press. 28. it might be useful to point out that the reason why I am concentrating on newspapers is that whereas radio and television are strictlycontrolled by the government. I have translated all the titles from the Hindi original. 31. These terms-urbanity. At prevailing exchange rates. India Today is published in a number of Indian languages and has a large audience in small towns and villages. 30. 35. 33. It would perhaps be more accurate to talk of "subject-positions" ratherthan "subjects"here. 41. and it is there that checks on state power emerge through the force of literate public opinion (Peters 1993."The only other importantsource of news in ruralareas.the connection between the ownership and content of newspapers is an incredibly difficult one to establish and is quite beyond the scope of this article and the competence of the author. The program in question is the IntegratedRural Development Programme. Political news on state-runtelevision. As Habermas (1989[1962]) makes clear. and in what follows I will compare the coverage there with magazines such as India Today. rationaldebate among bourgeois subjects could take place about a variety of topics.and their antonyms-appear in the villagers' discourse. the national interest. and they are part of that discourse . by contrast. independent state in precolonial and colonial South India (1987). 29. 32. 36. Therefore. others such as Benedict Anderson (1983) and Achille Mbembe (1992) have stressed the theoretical importance of newspapers in the construction of the nation and for the analysis of "the state.. The notion of the public sphere. Herzfeld makes a strong case for close scrutiny to newspapers even when the unit of analysis is "the village". local and national. This is not to imply that anthropologists have not incorporated newspapers into their analysis in the past (see for example Benedict 1946). 39. This fact should dispel the myth that the discourse of corruption is to be found only among the urban middle class of "Westernized"Indians. Here. the "public sphere" is the space where civil society emerges with the rise of bourgeois social formations. Herzfeld explains the marginal role of newspapers very clearly: "Journalismis treated as not authentically ethnographic. Further. literacy. 27. 34.. Inconsequence. A detailed study would also have to account for the complex relationship between domestic and international capital accumulation. less than the cost of a cup of tea. The sweet in question is a regionally famous one-pedaas. 37. from Mathura. Ethnographically. the importance of urban centers. To warm one's pockets is a metaphor for taking a bribe.

Citizenship is therefore a hybridized subject-position that has very differentresonances in a postcolonial context than it does in places where it is inextricably blended with the emergence of "civil society. Interestinglyenough. The behavior of corruptofficials then becomes furtherevidence of the state's exploitation of farmers. however is how this discourse is manipulated" (1992b:99. 52. Leys 1965." to mean debasement. 54. 43. for example. seems to have influenced his views on this matter: "we get a little more worldly. My use of the term "citizens" might seem to hark back to a notion of "civil society" that I argue against in the rest of the article. which ethnographically describe corruption through observation and interviews with state officials. 55. The only exception is to be found in the series of studies by Wade (1982." 59. All government positions have reservations or quotas for the scheduled castes-a certain percentage of jobs at any given rank are kept aside for people from the lowest castes." 48. all officials have jobs in which they are transferredfrequently. Heidenheimer 1970. In this article my analysis is limited to Hindi newspapers that publish local news of the Mandi region. Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister of India. which is closer to "administration. The literatureon corruption has been bedeviled by the effort to find a set of culturally universal. At the time this interview took place. however. Officials cannot be posted to their "home"village. The only reason I have chosen not to spend too much space here discussing the corruption literature is that it has very little to say about the chief concerns of my article. would probably find that it attains a very differenttexture. the same people often roundly condemn any official of another caste or village who has done precisely that as being "corrupt"and as guilty of encouraging "nepotism. invariable This foundational enterprise norms that would help decide if certain actions are to be classified as "corrupt. I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for raising this important question. Other peasants who believe that lower. I am grateful to LataMani for stressing this point to me.000. A representative sample of the different viewpoints in the corruption literaturecan be obtained from Clarke 1983. Leff1964. This point has been emphasized by Herzfeld in his discussion of the Greek village of Glendi and the provincial town of Rethemnos: "Therehas never been any serious doubt about the importance of the media in connecting villagers with larger national and international events. Talk of manipulation sometimes seems to make it appear as if there is a "deep" intention working toward particular goals. I am by no means implying that the viewing of television explains why Ram Singh holds this opinion of the corrupt middle levels of the state. Monteiro 1970. Of course." 47. Sometimes the word shaasan.42. dishonesty. One lakh = 100. in certain regions of Bihar). 50. 44. 1 lakh were approximately equal to $6. For a recent monograph. The Vidhan Sabha is the upper house of Parliament and the Lok Sabha the lower one. see Klitgaard1988. decay. and contamination. and Tilman 1968."is also employed. The modernism of the postcolonial nation-state is exemplified by the conceptofcitizenship enshrined in the Indian constitution. what Anderson (1983) has termed "bureaucraticpilgrimages" usually cover quite an extensive area. An excellent study of the importance of rumor in the countryside is to be found in Amin 1984. most of its grassrootsprotests are organized around local instances of corruption." soon degenerated into ethnocentrism and dogma. I prefer to think of employability. the diverse ways in which such discourse can be used in different circumstances. 61. What I am attempting to stress here. 56. 45. 49. like other people. impurity. a notion clearly rooted in Enlightenment ideas about the individual. although the rhetoric of the Kisan Union predicates its opposition to the state in terms of the state's anti-farmerpolicies. 1972. His reference to "illiteracy"must not be taken literally. For example. Whether it does or not has to do with the level of organization of differentgroups that are affected by it.000. Much less well-explored. but not upper. Forms of unambiguous resistance are rare blurred boundaries 397 . the ethnographic analysis of the everyday functioning of the state and the discursive construction of the state in public culture. some quite explicitly set out to undermine the assumptions of modernization theory. however. levels of government are corruptmay not hold that belief for the same reasons as Ram Singh. It is in this sense of violation of norms that the term is often extended to moral life quite removed from "the state. or district(depending on their circle of responsibility). tehsil. namely. 1984. immorality. 57. On the other hand. If one were to analyze the discourse of corruption in a region where dominant landed groups and lower levels of the state were more overtly complicit (as. 46. 53. the media spawn an extraordinarily homogenous as well as pervasive set of political cliches. vice. Maddox (1990) suggests that scholars may have their own reasons for looking so hard for resistance. is that in a postcolonial context the notion of citizenship does not arise out of the bourgeois public sphere but out of the discourses and practices of the modern nation-state. Like the folklore of earlier times. 58. 60. The discourse of accountability opened up by the rhetoricof citizenship need not become politically significant. neither occupies a space of pure oppositionality to dominant discourses and practices nor is simply duped by them. Itis not surprisingthat Ram Singh. leading to a prolonged period of intellectual inactivity. At the time of the interview. Television. not all the contributions to the corruption literaturefell into this ethnocentric trap. 1985). Scott 1969. He may very well believe in it for other reasons as well. in a state as large as UttarPradesh. a highly placed official who fails to help a close relative or fellow villager obtain a government position is often roundly criticized by people for not fulfilling his obligations to his kinsmen and village brothers. A fuller analysis would draw on the role of radio and television (both state-controlled) in all of this. Except at the very lowest levels. 51. emphasis in original). block. Although the circle in which they can be transferredvaries by rank. Huntington 1968.

gender. The source is A Tracton Monetary Reform (Keynes 1971 [1923]). (Mob Carriesaway Six Transformers from ElectricityStation. Journalof Historical Sociology 1(1):58-89. and Chatterjee (1986) stresses the "derivative"character of Third World nationalisms. Amartya Sen's study of famines (1982) employs a theory of entitlements to explain who suffers in a famine and why. an analytical strategythat is of dubious value. B. 1992) reminds me that even in the United States. for it is not clear to me what such a concept could possibly mean in the era of postcolonialism and late capitalism. 1989e T. 66. My effort to describe Ram Singh's position according to class. incorrect implementation of projects aimed at furtheringits interests. the notion of "civil society" has very little purchase outside academic circles.) July 22.indeed. (To Get Telephone to Work. it is. I doubt if an upper-caste villager would describe Ram Singh in this way. I am not defending the naive possibility of "indigenous" theory. and discursively embedded visions that are not for that reason unimportantor unredeemable. the effortto show resistance even in overt gestures of deference requires the positing of hyperstrategic rational actors. 1989b Cheeni aur Mitti kay Tel ki Kaalabazaari. Haraway brilliantly undermines the claims of objectivity embodied in these discourses by showing that the "the view from nowhere." He stresses that "the state" is "not a 'thing' but a 'happening' " (1985:156) and that it is riven by internal contradictions. This is precisely what "scientific" discourses seek to achieve-a universally verifiable description that is independent of observer and context. B. Itmight be objected that this kind of statement involves an analytical circularity:constructions of the state are contextual and situated. neither in all likelihood would a government official. Lila 1990 The Romance of Resistance: Tracing Transformationsof Power through Bedouin Women. yet any attempt to define context and situation involves the use of discourses that may themselves have been shaped by constructions of the state. Abu-Lughod. I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for forcing me to clarify this point. Abrams. among other things. (FarmersHarassed by LandConsolidation Official.)August 11. beyond. anything but an arbitraryone. and age hierarchies flows out of a social scientific discourse and a sense of political engagement as a postcolonial subject in which inequality.) July 22. or apart from the context being analyzed. (Police Busy Warming Own Pockets. Richard Fox's fine study of the colonial state in Punjab demonstrates the mutual construction of Sikh identities and "the state. Itshould be clear that I am not suggesting that it is only here that possibilities for intervention exist. 69. See also Appadurai 1984." or what she calls the "god-trick. 67. poverty. and power are the central concerns. caste.) July 25.) July 18. While being a particulardescription. incomplete consciousness of interests. 1989d ChakbandiAdhikaarisay Kisan Parayshaan. July 8. Philip 1988 Notes on the Difficulty of Studying the State. is part of this discursive formation and cannot hope to arrive at a description of "situatedness"that stands above. Jim Ferguson (personal communication. 1989f VidyutStationsay Bheed Chay TransformerUthaa lay Gayee. 68. Inother words. Frustratedwith the reification of the state and convinced that it was just a source of mystification. I am arguing that the use of concepts that originate in "the West" to understand the specificity of the Indian context enables one to develop a critique of the analytical apparatus itself (Chakrabarty1991). Feed Them Sweets. 64. Anderson points to the similarityof nation-states by emphasizing the "modularity" "the last wave" of nationalism (1983:104-128). of 65. and conflict between individual officials and the organization (1985:1 57)."masks a will-to-power that constitutes its own political project. and the simultaneity of co-optation and resistance baffles the familiarantinomies of analytical thought (Abu-Lughod1990. The analyst. I want to argue that the search to escape the mutual determination of largersociopolitical contexts and discursive positions is untenable.(Blackmarketeeringin Sugar and Kerosene. references cited Aaj 1989a Jayb Garmaanay May Juti Hai Police. nor would an official of the World Bank. context-dependent. Indeed. (Plunder in T. Aspataal may Loot Khasot. 62. the recognition that the truthsof scientific discourse are themselves located within specific webs of power-laden interconnections does not signal a slide toward "anything goes" randomness where all positions are subjectively determined and hence irrefutable(see also Bernstein 1985). too. Mankekar1993). 1989c Mathura ka Pedaa Khilaao to Telephone Bolnay Lagaingay. 63. Radcliffe-Brown (1940:xxiii) argued that the state be eliminated from social analysis! One of the most thoughtful discussions on this topic is to be found in Abrams 1988. 398 american ethnologist . I would argue. Hospital. Instead. Following Foucault and especially Haraway (1988). as Foucault recognized (1980:109-145). American Ethnologist17:43-55. She argues that all claims to objectivity are partialperspectives.) July 22.

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