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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: http://www.jstor.org/stable/646708 . 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


societies. atthe level of the subdistrict [tehsil]) where a large number of state officials. and nations are no longer seen to map unproblematically onto different spaces (Appadurai 1986. In this article I argue that the conventional distinction between state and civil society.. 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. thereby providing a set of propositions that can be developed. epochal events. on which such a large portion of the scholarship on the state is based. the staff of the civil hospital. Skocpol 1979). 1985. this article also has a programmaticaim: to marksome new trails along which future anthropological research on the state might profitably proceed. This necessitates some reflection on the limitations inherent in data collected in "the field. The discourse of corruption turns out to be a key arena through which the state. and other organizations and aggregations come to be imagined. one has to rethinkthe relationship between bodily presence and the generation 376 american ethnologist . in press. Ashforth 1990."Once cultures. Mitchell 1989. Nugent 1994. Although research into the practices of local state officials is necessary. 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. Brow 1988. Instead of treating corruption as a dysfunctional aspect of state organizations. I do not want to suggest that the face-to-face methods of traditional ethnography are irrelevant. with its focus on large-scale structures. and refutedby others working on this topic. n. 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. and "important"people (Evanset al. constituting the broad base of the bureaucratic pyramid. live and work-the village-level workers. 1991." and this is where many of their images of the state are forged. Hannerz 1986). Taussig 1992. 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. I should point out that much more needs to be done to lay the empirical basis for ethnographies of the state. and others. I see it as a mechanism through which "the state" itself is discursively constituted. Yang 1989). Anagnost 1994.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"). Cohn 1987a. needs to be reexamined. Kasaba 1994. 1981. Handelman 1978. Very little rich ethnographic evidence documents what lower-level officials actually do in the name of the state. The goal is to map out some of the most importantconnections in a very large picture. Surprisinglylittle research has been conducted in the small towns (in the Indian case." The discourse of corruption. citizens. Urla 1993.Methodologically.practices in which it is instantiated. Gupta and Ferguson 1992.d. is mediated by local bureaucratsbut cannot be understood entirely by staying within the geographically bounded arena of a subdistricttownship. 1987b. challenged. agriculturalextension agents.Such claims to truthgain their force precisely by clinging to bounded notions of "society" and "culture.4 Research on the state. land record keepers. major policies. forexample. In so doing. I use the analysis of the discourse of corruption to question its utility in the Indian context. elementary school teachers. 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 in this article I stress the role of public culture and transnational phenomena. This is the site where the majorityof people in a ruraland agriculturalcountry such as India come into contact with "the state.3 In addition to description and analysis. Herzfeld 1992a. it is not by itself sufficient to comprehend how the state comes to be constructed and represented. What is the epistemological status of the object of analysis? What is the appropriate mode of gathering data.

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

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

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

immediately "Youshould ask him [Verma] that. Sharmaji and Verma. 10 to into raucouslaughter Vermasmiled. present told the young men that Sharmaji was a very well-connectedperson."He immediately he landregister. Give whateveramount you wantto give.The young men repeatedthe questionto him. "Helpthemget theirworkdone. he said. Allof themgave figuresranging datedbecausethat is how much it had cost ten or moreyearsago. then Sharmaji told the young men thatthey shouldhavefirstfoundout "whatit cost"to "get these days. then went into an adjoiningroom. 10. Then both Sharmaji Vermagot up abruptly leftfor lunch. "I'llbe happy told him. Theyoung men triedto put 380 american ethnologist . I Although neverdid findout why they wantedto adda nameto the landrecords. I sensed that Verma had knownthis all along. 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. "Giveas much as you like. it was to himthatthey came.saying"Tau[father's elder They begging know what's best.Sharmaji reappearedand announced loudly that they would have to "pay for it. why should we go runningaroundwhen you are here?" brother]. the applicationwould have to be backdatedby a few months. Theirrubber slippersand unkempt clearlymarked an impression reinforced clothes thathad obviouslynot been stitchedby a tailor villagers. which Sharmaji to responded."Sharmaji them thatthey didn'tknow anythingaboutthe law." told them. He said. they could alwayscome back to Sharmaji.in hair them to be probably theirlateteens. if all else failed.one of them brokethe impasseby reachinginto his shirtpocketand carefullytakingout a few folded bills."The two patwaris kept urging. 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. "andthengive Verma exactly and asked him how much he had paid ten yearsago." The young men wanted to know how much would be required. 150.Thereupon of the farmers one succeed.Sharmaji workdone.This was accomplishedby aggressively tellingthemto go aheadand firsttryto get the job done on theirown and that.Withoutappearing to himselfsaid that when big farmers and important leadersneeded to get their brag." When they askedthe questionagain. "Itis not for me to say. nervousclients seemedto lose all theirbravado.At the mentionof the headman. by who normally cateredto the "smart" of town-dwelling set youngmen. "Goand findoutthe cost of putting a nameaddedto the register" yourname in the turned halfof that. He handedRs."Ineverrefusedto help them. The man to one of the farmers present and and said it had been somethinglike Rs. but firstyou'll need the signatureof the headmanof your told village.Theyappearedill at ease and somewhatnervousin Sharmaji's an impression triedhardto dispelby adopting room. that because in orderto add a nameto it took morethan Rs. 14 justforthe cost of the application a plot. Verma saidto the youngmen. to Theyoungmenturned the otherpeopleandaskedthem ifthey knewwhatthe appropriate was fromRs." The two clients then whisperedto each other. Finally. they an overconfident tone in theirconversation.that'sthe law. where they had a shortwhisperedconference."he said.20 Sharmaji respondedby bursting were right.you then requested Vermato "help" youngmen."You laughing to do your workeven for Rs. the Perhapsbecause they had been previouslyunawareof his reputation.They explainedthat relationswere not good between them and the headmanand thatthey were in oppositecamps.130-150 butsaidthattheirinformation sumwas.the young men became dismayed." all the while."Shortlythereafter.When I arrived the scene. soon started forhelp. Vermamade a perfectlytimed reentrance. you don't "If I will alwaysbe willingto help you."he the Sharmaji to which Vermawould reply.Iwas told thatit was in conniection withtheirefforts obtainfertilizer a loan forwhich the landwas to on to serveas collateral.

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

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

Ferguson happens at the grassrootsis thus complexly mediated.The executiveengineerpromised themthathe "wouldsend menatonce. about50 of themclimbed that So people on tractors. he appeared defeatedinthe end bythe procedures a bureaucracy of whose ruleshe could notcomprehend.A youngfarmer incidentto me.sometimesthroughmultiplerelays. So they contributed 150 each (approximately at exchange rates of the HydelDepartment.a crowd walked off with six transformers froman electricitystationin broaddaylight(Aaj1989f).one must and that place them in the contextof a regimeof "development" came into being in the postwar international orderof decolonized nation-states (Escobar 1990). Beingan "honest" was man(thatis.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."What Ido?We don'thavethe replacement reportedly equipment the present So they gave himthe Rs.the poorexist in the firstplace and why they are initiated managedby the state. then)and took the moneyto the assistant prevailing engineer They told himthattheircropswere dyingfor a lackof waterand thatthey were in deep trouble.The quick responseof these officialswas due to the fact thatthe KisanUnion had alreadyestablisheditselfas a powerfulforce in that particular area. as will be evident froma few examples."Sureenough. one trueto hisword). Not all such incidentsended amicably. Eachsuch transformer relateda common typicallyservesfive to ten tubewells."Obviously.1.as soon as the equipment in. sometimesmoredirectly.He can at time. as local officialsemploy their by just with bureaucratic to a familiarity procedures carryout or obstruct transaction maneuvering by blurred boundaries 383 ." said.the linemen came the followingday and replacedit. by It should be clear from all the incidentsdescribedabove that lower-levelofficialsplay a crucialrole in citizens'encounters with "thestate. He took the money and promisedthem thatthe job would be done in a few days.no singular of characterization the natureand contentof the interaction villagersand bureaucrats possible. The farmersno longer fearedthe police and revenueofficials. was of Sripal amongthose beneficiaries "development" who regretted acceptinghelp. he had the transformer installedthreedays later.26 of Sripal's experienceof pittingone organization the stateagainstothersand of employing the multiplelayersof stateorganizations his advantageno doubtshapedhis construction to of the state. on the and makingthem do "sit-ups. Some examplesare providedby severalactionsof villagers' the Bharatiya KisanUnion (BKU). What 1984.They refusedto move untila new transformer been installedin the village. went straight the executiveengineer'shouseandcampedon his lawn(a common to form of civil disobedience in Indiais to gherao [encircleand preventmovementofl a high had official)." refusedto pay electricitydues (up to 60 percent of They sector dues remainunpaidin a nearbydistrict) and forced "corrupt" officialsto agricultural returnmoney allegedlytaken as bribes. stand the officials who are Sharmaji manhandled the peasantactivistsof the BKU. young manwent to the Kisan shortly and requested they help him get a new transformer.800 they hadpooled and requested the transformer replaced that be as soon as possible.by such linkages. occasion "arresting" officials.tyingthemto trees.Incontrast of is to and Verma. $10 neighborsblew out.Similarly.Atthe sametime. The transformer to his tubewell and those of 11 of his supplyingelectricity Rs. Whenthe same situationrecurred the Union thereafter. The implementation developmentprograms of thereforeformsa key arenawhere representations the state are constitutedand where its of legitimacyis contested. 1988. In one incident. One of the mostfrequent is complaintsof farmers thatthey have to pay bribesto officialsof the Hydel Department replace burned-out to transformers. One can also find contrasting instanceswhere local officialsare on the receivingend of disaffection with stateinstitutions.He becamedeeplyalienatedbytheveryprograms assistance ever that the state employed to legitimateits rule. who manipulatetheir gullible clients.

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

practiced. It is also a discursivefield that enables the decried.The "system" corruption of course not just a brutecollection of practiceswhose most of is widespreadexecution occurs at the local level.For reason the analysisof reportsin local and nationalnewspapers tells us a greatdeal aboutthe manner in which "thestate"comes to be imagined. in the fact thatthey carryspecialsectionsdevotedto local news."33 blurred boundaries 385 .the narratives are a presentedin newspapers siftedthrough set of institutional are filters.andtransformed publicculture. to the BBCWorldService news broadcastin Hindias well as to the government-controlled nationalradio(Akaashvaanl).30 the studyof translocal In contribute phenomenasuchas "thestate. life.29 The importance the mediawas brought of home to me when. was well-informed international He on events and would often ask me detailedquestionsregarding events in the UnitedStatesor Iran.this man AlthoughRajiv was keenlyawareof all of hiscampaign LikemanyothersinAlipur. for that reasonalone. and et 1988."I was to surprised hear him say this and askedwhy he thoughtso. listenednightly he promises. shouldbecomeevidentby comparing documents-to oral newspaperreports-conceptualizedas culturaltexts and sociohistorical interviews.28 to of in contested. He replied.perceiving them as havinga privilegedrelation the truth social life is naive. into "field data" once they haveyellowedaround edgesandfallen the metamorphize invaluable at clearby whatalchemytimeturns "secondary" the apart the creases. moredeeply Treated with benignneglectby students contemporary they mysteriously of compromised. Gilroy1987. 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." newspapers to the rawmaterial for This necessary "thick" description. cultureis a zone of cultural debateconductedthrough massmedia.Of course. the visible practicesof institutions and such as the state (Appadurai 1990. only be obtainedby subscribing newspapers withinthatarea. Itis "thesite andstake" for this (Hall1982) of struggles cultural meaning.they have muchto offer to of formthrough which daily life is narrativized us. Gurevitch al. into data Apartfromtheoreticalreasonsthat may be adducedto supportthe analysisof newspaper the of whetherregionalor national reports." Gandhihad not visitedthe area aroundAlipurduringhis campaign. devoted to the analysisof the discourseof corruption. Sincenewspaper are filed reports invariably by locallyresident correspondents.newspapers Althoughradioand televisionobviouslyplay a significant are perhapsthe most important mechanismin public culturefor the circulation discourses of on corruption. News about a particular can to area. newspaperreports obtainedwithin"thefield. if one picks up the same newspaperin two different cities in UttarPradesh.and denounced.Inthis restricted abouta particular can only be area sense."Rajiv promisedto in eradicatecorruption his campaignbut has it happened? hasn'tdone anything He aboutit.othermechanical the modes of reproduction. and especially to its historically and situatedcharacter.as do oral interviews. contemporary role as mass media. certainformof situatedknowledge. however.The nextsection is phenomenonto be labeled. importance all vernacular dailies. 1980.3 Andyet it is notentirely dataof the anthropologist the "primary" of the historian. a higher-caste in villageelder whose son was a businessmanwith close connectionsto the Congress(I) told me.32 These are distributed only in the regionto which the news applies.Public Representations the stateareconstituted. "Rajivhas failed.discussed.when seen as a majordiscursive and collectivitiesimagined. 1982).Obviously.Thus.therefore. barelytwo monthsafterRajiv Gandhiwas elected primeminister late 1984.lies newspapers. Hallet al.but theirrepresentations not. they a constitute. 1982. some of the pages insidewill have entirelydifferent contents.Waites Appadurai Breckenridge et al.

booted out of Rajiv P.The methodof studying stateadvancedin this articlerelatesthe discourseof corruption the in the vernacular English-language to statements and and madeby villagers stateofficials.35RajivGandhi'selection in separatism November 1984 was fought largely on the slogans of the eradicationof corruptionand in the threatsfromSikhs. Thispoint will be demonstratedby firstlookingat a few examplesfromthe national."said AminchandAjmera.[Times India1989:1] businessman schemeto help in was Thethemeof corruption prominent an articleon a centralgovernment in IndiaToday.the Timesof India.English-language pressand then at vernacular mostly newspapers. citizen"and the state betweenthe "ordinary elaboratedthe relationship The articlefurther to with reference the roleof formalpoliticsand politicians: in stemmedfromthe growingcorruption political In U.we mustpay carefulattention newspapers culturaltexts of to the politicalculture the period. hadstarted investigation the "Bofors he an Gandhi's The was electorallyexplosivepreciselybecause it became a symbolof Affair. press We will see that local discoursesand practices linked were intimately concerningcorruption with the reportage found in vernacular and nationalnewspapers. Inits Corruption an issuedominated of the threenational of the decade.34 as two electionsheld in the 1980s.what is the harmin my taking64 paisaon a ticket?"36 The discourseof corruption.the widely readmetropolitan of Boforsand set out to establishhow the electorateviewed corruption. the politicalimpact "If One of its articlesbegins by quoting a villagerwho remarked.went far beyond just settingthe termsof electoral but betweenpoliticalparties.V.the conductoron the notoriouslyinefficient UttarPradeshState Roadwaysbus justifiednot returning change to me by saying.emerged as the leader. Clean..the other[opposition (Times India1989:1). Forexample.a backward todayaredriven powerat all costs.anotherMr.. to constitute as to the largelythrough mass media.37 this government example. the majority that [increasing felt corruption] class leaderfromGondapointedout thatpoliticians circles.Andthe vastsumsexpendedon electionsare by a one-pointprogramme-tocapture there is no politics..P." effectof Bofors at corruption all levels of the state.Inthe electionsof 1989.i."the subjectof corruption came undera cloud for allegedlyacceptingkickbacks fromBofors.a Swedish administration In successful manufacturer.The pay-offfora which affectseverysphereof life .which pointedout how the resourcesbeing allocatedby the central the poor In in were being misusedby the stategovernment MadhyaPradesh(1989). Instead. of is a cobra" is a poisonoussnake.a obtained by unfairmeans. "IfRajiv Gandhican take 64 crorein bribes. Verma. Bofors rationcardor a job does"(1989:1). 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. in which a non-Congress government came to powerforonly the second time in 43 yearsof electoralpolitics.attempted analyze surveys. the discourse of corruption became a 386 american ethnologist . P.Preciselybecause preserving nation'sintegrity the face of separatist latercame to haunthim as his he was initially dubbed"Mr. "Withoutcorruption of fromBhopal.Ina seriesof majorpreelection clues thatgive us important to English daily.as defense minister. He had earlierbeen unceremoniously into cabinetbecause. and corruption dominatesan eventful decade" (Chawla1990:18). the fortnightly news magazineIndiaTodayheadlinedthe section on summary "The'80s: Politics"in the following manner:"Thepoliticsof communalism.e. fact. Singh. 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). however. one [politicalparty.Itnotonly helpedto define"thepolitical" also served competition to Since this was done "thepublic"thatwas perceivedto be reacting corruption. Bofors becamethe centerpieceof the opposition's small-arms his effortto overthrow regime.Clean..M.

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

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

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

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

RamSingh'swords revealthe important that nationalmedia play in part play "local" discourseson the state. is an Ram Interestingly.56 scheduledcastes of this area in general. by above the one thathe has alwaysdealt with (the thatthereare severallayersof "government" and levelscan exert Minister Gandhi).the government-controlled televisionnetwork. successiveCongressregimes. Popular in of are fieldwherethe massmedia understandings the statetherefore constituted a discursive a criticalrole. Singhreproduces apologeticsforthe failureof policy (theformulation foundin India's "middle that all right. Only thatcould explainwhy his sons in have succeeded in obtaininghighly prized governmentjobs despite their neglect by local schoolteachers theirill-treatment local officials. a key symbolof upwardmobility.61 blurred boundaries 391 ." delivered by politiciansbelongingto the regime in power. sees the regime'sgood intentions RamSinghhas a sense towardthe lowercastesbeingfrustrated venal stateofficials.60 apparent Rather.59 Inthe buildupto the elections. by watching television].higherbureaucrats.and actions are represented him through to the mass media)interested helpingpeople like him. 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. historically supported is of one Thefirst impresses aboutRamSingh'sinterpretation "thestate" how clearly thingthat as its he understands composition an entitywith multiplelayersanddiverselocalesandcenters.57 Singhmaintains He a distinctionbetweenthe regimeand the bureaucracy.Severalof his sons are educated. 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. Ram the Although wordfor regimeand state is the same in Hindi(sarkaar). of "the state"entirelyfrom his personal interactions conversely.Yet when he talksabout"thepublic. we get a little more worldly [Kuch duniyaadaari seekh laayten hain]. 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 itinerary. 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. we learn a little bit about the outside world.what we see from this example is the articulationbetween (necessarilyfractured) of hegemonic discoursesand the inevitablysituatedand interestedinterpretations subaltern RamSingh's lead himto believethattheremustbe government subjects.e. about the differentpartsof India.it is not possibleto deduce RamSingh'sunderstanding with the bureaucracy." and by andwitha first-person aboutRaj efforts behalfof the poor. about how other people live.Clearly. and what kinds of policies and programsthey are agents responsible promoting. thatthe different Rajiv by verytop personified then-Prime opposing pulls on policy (specifically. This way [i. 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. sources. and reproducedin the work of officialsof international and academics.Clearly.one of the five televisionsets in the village. and two of them have obtained relativelygood governmentjobs as a have The consequence. it is thathe is notmerelyparroting reports obtainsfrom the he televisionandnewspapers.and the jatavsin particular.who the for its actions are. mostof the nightlynewscastfollowingRajivGandhion his campaigntours.motives..Obviously.those that affect a scheduled-casteperson like him).Doordarshan. sympathetic agencies. everyday experiences officialsand agencies (whose presence.it is the implementors areto blame)pervasively classes.

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

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

institutions. atthe sametime itcan potentially construct empowercitizensby marking yet activitiesthatinfringe theirrights.itdoes so infactonlyto removeall discussion empowerment (1990) JimFerguson Yet horizon(hencethe titleof his book. 1993. Elizabeth Perry. University of Washington. October 12.the otheroutside). organizations. NH. might notes Mani. on I for to createpossibilities politicalactionandactivism. Jane Collier.aboutsuch dichotomiesas applied/acisto and tivist. thatthe phenomenonof statefetishism is emerges.both in equal measure.All I wish to emphasizeis thatone's theory for of "thestate" does greatlymatterin formulating strategies politicalaction. Gramscihas calledthe "warof position. 1990. and agendasof "thestate"butalso the contestedterrain departments. This article was originally presented at a workshop on State-Society Relations at the University of Texas at Austin.we mustrememberhow unstableand fragilethis self-representation and how it could alwaysbe otherwise. March 24-25. 1993." Thesecontradictions only address divergent not pullsexertedbythe multipleagencies.and affect. live only halfas long. 1990. the two the are not mutuallyexclusive. allowspeople anddiscourses "thestate" of in contradictions the policies. Acknowledgments. my analysisof "thestate"leadsto the vanguardism to conclusionthatwe can attempt exploitthe contradictory processesthatgo intoconstituting the "it. February8-11.Don Moore. grateful Purnima 394 american ethnologist . John Peters. Bypointingoutthatadvocatesof appliedworkandthose who favoractivistintervention may sometimesunintentionally share a common projectof reifying"thestate"and then locating themselveswith respectto that totality(the one inside. to Escobar we begin to see thatwe need.programs. I am grateful to the Fritz Endowment of the School of InternationalStudies." Whatis at stakeis nothingless thana transformation in the mannerinwhichthe statecomes to be constructed. it is preciselyin these practicesof historical in abstraction. TheAnti-Politics fromthe discursive Machine). draw of The entitlement and empowerment. notas a momentof arrival.67 "machinery" developan initialdistinctionbetween As entitlements.of involvesa cultural what currently hegemonicconfigurations poweranddomination struggle. and the University of Pennsylvania.Forexample. alternatives we mustlearnnotto scoffata plebeianpolitics andnotdevelopment alternatives. development. Irvine. as Arturo (1992) has felicitouslyput it. and to Fulbright-Haysfor supporting fieldwork in the summer of 1989 and the 1991-92 academic year. from. And it is here that seizing on the fissuresand ruptures. and three anonymous reviewers for detailed comments."69 poor. 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.68see criticalreflection the discourse Evenas for of developmentas a pointof departure politicalaction. Atul Kohli. focuseson the goal of delivering of hasargued.Lata Iam to JamesFerguson. respectively. DavidNugent. 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. developmentalism/revolution. Columbia University. on of One way to thinkaboutstrategies politicalaction. ment. If and narrative statistical public representation.inside/outside. Many interestingquestions were raised at presentations at StanfordUniversity. of that of opportunism. some of which will have to await the development of a much longer manuscript. I have shown how the discourseof corruption helps those "thestate". February22. 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. 1992. policyanalysis/class struggle.I neitherintendto modesof engagementnor to belittlethe often politically underequatedifferent sophisticated that standings practitioners bringto theiractivities. possibilities the moment. February8. Mankekar.Keynes strategies are aliveto the conjunctural The that"inthe long runwe areall dead. I economistsand utopians servedto remind add.with itselaborateyet repetitivelogic. equal partsthin fiction and brutefact.Justas Gramsci's notionof hegemonyled himto believethat1917 may have been the lastEuropean exampleof so (whathe calledthe "warof maneuver"). of levels.

Sripalclaimed to know the exact amount by consu ting "people who can read and write.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. I find JudithButler's(1990) concept of gender as performance very useful in thinking about this issue. "central. I therefore use the term simply to refer. that is. I use it to refer to the effects of hegemonic representations of the West ratherthan its subjugated traditions.400 (approximately $215) per year for the 1992-93 fiscal year. the client in effect handed Verma the equivalent of 56 cents." 4. Herzfeld remarks:"Thusanthropology. the identities and occupations of all the people mentioned here have been altered beyond recognition. 6. $1 = Rs. 3. The term "ThirdWorld" encapsulates and homogenizes what are in fact diverse and heterogenous and "Third"worlds exist as separate and separable realities (Mohanty 1988). It implies furtherthat "First" spaces (Ahmad 1987). At the exchange rate prevailing at the time of the incident in 1989.at least once every three years. with its propensity to focus on the exotic and the remarkable. however. The phrase is LataMani's (1989). This point has been made by ParthaChatterjee(1990) in response to Charles Taylor (1990). I later learned that Rs. allegedly involved a kickback in a gun ordered by the Indian government from a Swedish manufacturer." 14. 23. The headman is an official elected by all the registered voters of a village. Headmen are neither considered part of the administration nor the grassroots embodiment of political parties. Handelman's work (1978. not to a geographical space. 3. 16.. which came to be known as the Bofors Affair. 1981) develops a call made by scholars such as Nader (1972) to "study up. 18. Michael Woost's (1993) fine essay also addresses similar questions. Like all the other names in this article. I will thus capitalize it to highlight its problematic status. See also Achille Mbembe's (1992) wonderful article for its suggestive use of newspaper reports. as Handelman has observed. 24. I am grateful to Don Moore for emphasizing this point to me. the number in the circle varying from three to a dozen depending on their populations."The officials at the Block office told me. 20. This level was defined as Rs. Since the word "federal" is rarely used in India. Political parties rarely participate in village elections in the sense that candidates do not representnational or regional partieswhen contesting these elections. Iam gratefulto Dipesh Chakrabarty firstbringingthis to my attention. but not enough for a pair of rubber slippers. particularly as it emphasizes that the agents involved are not following a cultural script governed by rule-following behavior. power. 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. and no concrete proof was ever uncovered. See the articles by Mitchell (1989) and Taussig (1992) on this matter. for 15. "the West" is obviously not a homogenous and unified entity. I am definitely not saying that empirical research needs to be abandoned. a remarkableomission" (1992a:45). but to a particularhistorical conjuncture of place. Like other government officials. although they may play important roles in representing the village to bureaucratic and party institutions. 6. his recent book (1993) restates it and develops the argument further. 25.000 was allocated for such projects. A phenomenon that Johannes Fabian (1983) calls "allochronism. 8. 21. 11. 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. The scandal. since it does not indicate purchasing power. Instead of adopting the cumbersome technique of putting "the state" in quotation marks throughout the text. In addition." and attempts to do for bureaucracies what ethnographers such as Rohlen (1974. 1 7. 9. this too is a pseudonym. blurred boundaries 395 . that a sum of Rs.. 7. The largerproject has a significant oral historical and archival dimension as well as a wider sampling of the various media. I use the term "hold court"because Sharmaji'smode of operation is reminiscent of an Indian darbaar. Yet this silence is. 13.the ruling partydid not pursue the investigation with great enthusiasm. perhaps even the prime minister.000 of the total cost is given as a loan that has to be paid back in 20 installments stretching across ten years.. I will refer to it by its Indian equivalent. 22. 10. 8.1. 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. Similar questions were raised earlier by Nader (1972:306-307). Such an analysis has important implications for political action. 5." 19. Naturally. owing to the sensitive nature of this material. and knowledge. the village development worker is subject to frequent transfers. Itshould be obvious that I am making a distinction between an empiricist epistemology and empirical methods. 1983) have done for other institutions such as banks and schools. In a similar manner. 12. See the excellent concluding chapter of his monograph of the working class in Bengal (1989). has largely ignored the practices of bureaucracy. a royal court. 18. however. 2. 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. in which he tackles this question head on. as it suggests that the struggle for hegemony is built into the construction of the state. That figure is misleading. 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.

64 crore = $36 million. Inconsequence. and the dominant role of the church as an institutionthat is not replicated in the same form elsewhere in the world. by contrast. I wish to thank an anonymous reviewer for raisingthese stimulating questions. Although literacy rates are relatively low throughout the region. illiterateand learned (or at least journalistic). not an analytical strategy. 34. 64 paise was equal to 3. the impact of newspapers goes far beyond the literatepopulation as news reportsare orally transmittedacross a wide range of groups.6 cents. Forthose unfamiliarwith the Indian context. Herzfeld explains the marginal role of newspapers very clearly: "Journalismis treated as not authentically ethnographic. less than the cost of a cup of tea. Failureto recognize this is to essentialize essentialism. As Habermas (1989[1962]) makes clear. BernardCohn. the "public sphere" is the space where civil society emerges with the rise of bourgeois social formations. including the state. 36. These terms-urbanity.26. I would like to thank Joel Migdal for pointing this out to me. 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).. because everyone concerned knows that it is the mouthpiece of the government. Political news on state-runtelevision. 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).. 38. The sweet in question is a regionally famous one-pedaas. This is a task that I propose to undertake in a full-length monograph. for instance. since it is both externally derived and rhetorically factual. 33.with a few notable exceptions. is met with a high degree of skepticism. 29. Doordarshan. The symbolic representation of the state is as yet largely unexplored territory. the importance of urban centers. 40. Itis there that critical. See also Nicholas Dirks's study of a small. 396 american ethnologist . At prevailing exchange rates.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. 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. Herzfeld makes a strong case for close scrutiny to newspapers even when the unit of analysis is "the village". rationaldebate among bourgeois subjects could take place about a variety of topics. many of them depend on multinational wire service bureaus for international news. and they are part of that discourse . 39. kingly rule. This is not to imply that anthropologists have not incorporated newspapers into their analysis in the past (see for example Benedict 1946). 37. although none of the locally distributed newspapers (English-language or vernacular) are even partially owned by transnational corporations. I have translated all the titles from the Hindi original. 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. 28. in press). from Mathura. I wanted to stress that we not forget that the detailed analysis of everyday life is overdetermined by transnational influences.it would lead us to ignore the multiplicity of sins covered by the monolithic stereotypes of 'the bureaucracy' and 'the state'" (1992a:45). 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 discussion. the national interest. Since the argument that follows raises doubts about the wholesale import of these categories to the particularcontext being analyzed. denotes a particular historical and cultural formation shaped by feudalism.. 41. Therefore. Corruptionalso figures prominently in the vernacular press. India Today is published in a number of Indian languages and has a large audience in small towns and villages. the intrusionof media language into village discourse has largely been ignored" (1992b:94). 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. however. 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. 31. It would perhaps be more accurate to talk of "subject-positions" ratherthan "subjects"here. and it is there that checks on state power emerge through the force of literate public opinion (Peters 1993." respectively. transnational radio. Rs. 27. the press is relatively autonomous and frequently critical of "the state. 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. 30. local and national."The only other importantsource of news in ruralareas. this notion of the "public sphere" is not particularly helpful. and in what follows I will compare the coverage there with magazines such as India Today. literacy. Ethnographically. I have deliberately avoided use of the term "public sphere" in this article.and their antonyms-appear in the villagers' discourse. the rise of capitalism. The program in question is the IntegratedRural Development Programme. 32. The notion of the public sphere. To warm one's pockets is a metaphor for taking a bribe. For example. 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. 35... Further. independent state in precolonial and colonial South India (1987). "Attacking 'the state' and 'bureaucracy' (often furtherreified as 'the system') is a tactic of social life. Herzfeld has issued a warning that we would do well to heed: "We cannot usefully make any hard-and-fastdistinctions between ruraland urban. A detailed study would also have to account for the complex relationship between domestic and international capital accumulation.

60. 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. I prefer to think of employability. Talk of manipulation sometimes seems to make it appear as if there is a "deep" intention working toward particular goals. The discourse of accountability opened up by the rhetoricof citizenship need not become politically significant." 48. 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. One lakh = 100. leading to a prolonged period of intellectual inactivity. and contamination. 54. namely.one would probably find that it attains a very differenttexture. 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. which ethnographically describe corruption through observation and interviews with state officials. Other peasants who believe that lower. dishonesty. 53. which is closer to "administration. The literatureon corruption has been bedeviled by the effort to find a set of culturally universal. what Anderson (1983) has termed "bureaucraticpilgrimages" usually cover quite an extensive area. Interestinglyenough." to mean debasement. An excellent study of the importance of rumor in the countryside is to be found in Amin 1984. Although the circle in which they can be transferredvaries by rank. not all the contributions to the corruption literaturefell into this ethnocentric trap. for example. seems to have influenced his views on this matter: "we get a little more worldly. On the other hand. Leys 1965. 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. At the time of the interview. 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. I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for raising this important question.000. The Vidhan Sabha is the upper house of Parliament and the Lok Sabha the lower one. Of course. 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. Sometimes the word shaasan. 56. decay. Officials cannot be posted to their "home"village. levels of government are corruptmay not hold that belief for the same reasons as Ram Singh. Itis not surprisingthat Ram Singh. and Tilman 1968. 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. all officials have jobs in which they are transferredfrequently. Whether it does or not has to do with the level of organization of differentgroups that are affected by it. some quite explicitly set out to undermine the assumptions of modernization theory. block. 46. A representative sample of the different viewpoints in the corruption literaturecan be obtained from Clarke 1983. Much less well-explored. however is how this discourse is manipulated" (1992b:99. For a recent monograph. Maddox (1990) suggests that scholars may have their own reasons for looking so hard for resistance. Huntington 1968. 45. a notion clearly rooted in Enlightenment ideas about the individual. Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister of India. invariable This foundational enterprise norms that would help decide if certain actions are to be classified as "corrupt. although the rhetoric of the Kisan Union predicates its opposition to the state in terms of the state's anti-farmerpolicies. however. 1 lakh were approximately equal to $6. vice. He may very well believe in it for other reasons as well. Scott 1969. For example." soon degenerated into ethnocentrism and dogma. 1972. Monteiro 1970. impurity.000. 55. 58. 57. 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. 50. A fuller analysis would draw on the role of radio and television (both state-controlled) in all of this. His reference to "illiteracy"must not be taken literally. 1985). 61. immorality. 51. Like the folklore of earlier times. At the time this interview took place. in certain regions of Bihar). It is in this sense of violation of norms that the term is often extended to moral life quite removed from "the state. Television. see Klitgaard1988. 44. the media spawn an extraordinarily homogenous as well as pervasive set of political cliches."is also employed. I am grateful to LataMani for stressing this point to me. Forms of unambiguous resistance are rare blurred boundaries 397 . The only exception is to be found in the series of studies by Wade (1982. 43. the diverse ways in which such discourse can be used in different circumstances. 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. The behavior of corruptofficials then becomes furtherevidence of the state's exploitation of farmers." 59. Except at the very lowest levels. The modernism of the postcolonial nation-state is exemplified by the conceptofcitizenship enshrined in the Indian constitution. 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. however. What I am attempting to stress here. neither occupies a space of pure oppositionality to dominant discourses and practices nor is simply duped by them. in a state as large as UttarPradesh. Rs. but not upper. 49. or district(depending on their circle of responsibility). In this article my analysis is limited to Hindi newspapers that publish local news of the Mandi region. Heidenheimer 1970. 1984. Leff1964. emphasis in original). most of its grassrootsprotests are organized around local instances of corruption. 52.42. the ethnographic analysis of the everyday functioning of the state and the discursive construction of the state in public culture. like other people. tehsil." 47.

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

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