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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


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

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

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

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

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

respectively). they would continueto farmas they usuallydid-that is.000 allocatedto him.SherSingh.do not alwayshave theirway.The money building to to site transported the construction came out of his own pocket. lackeda brickhouse.Vermamanagedto appearto be willingto do the work. Interestingly.therefore.TheIndira whereasthe NirbalVargAwaasYojanawas for all those who owned (untouchables). to on levels of the bureaucracy exertsome pressure local officials. 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. villagedevelopmentworker23 took himto the town. harijans less thanone acre of land.Forthe paperwork was chargedRs. were not just voicing because thatwas no smallfactor. who lived in a clusterof Sripal low-caste(jatav)homes in the village. were expressingfrustration they although forthose services.sayingitwas notforhimto intervene. Inthiscase. providing had Sripal himwith material worthonly Rs.simply an economic transactionbut a culturalpracticethat requireda great degree of performative of they complainedaboutthe corruption stateofficials.that a good face on the bunglednegotiation suggesting it would not be a big loss if they did by not succeed in theirefforts. "TakeRs. withoutfertilizer.000 out of the Rs.When his namewas the taken. don'task me to pay you anything. clients.The "practice" bribe giving was not. When I saw the brickone-roomdwelling constructed next to his mother'shouse.7. Sharmaji colleagueon behalfof the clients. not more than 25 years old.200.21 to capitalrequired negotiatedeftly they lackedthe cultural and Theentireepisodewas skilfullymanagedby Sharmaji Verma. and to refused answer. that Afterthathe was given a slip (parchi) entitledhimto pick up predetermined of quantities materialfrom a store designatedby the village developmentworker. Indira AwaasYojana(literally. in undertwo government the Severalhouses have been constructed Alipur programs. who was still sitting No one could tell them what the current figurewas. had his photograph he andthenopened an accountin his namein a bank.Moreimportantly.000 if you want fromthe cost of the pleaded material[fromthe portionof the house grantreserved purchasing for but materials]. as the young men learned. thatitwas all upto Sharmaji there. approved. But Sripal that dismissedthatnotion. 1. of and Verma.The act of givingthe bribebecameentirelya gestureof goodwiIIon the partof the customersrather was a to thana consciousmechanism greasethe wheels.localofficialsoftenhaveto seekout beneficiaries can of The beneficiariesof these programs then employ the authority the upper authorities.He also discoveredthatthe cost of laborwas supposedto be blurred boundaries 381 . theycame away Although knewthatthe youngmen would roundof negotiations. was so was a thin.and had an income below a specifiedlimit. stateofficialsgot the betterof a couple of inexperienced for of however. AwaasYojana meantforlandless was peoplewho do nothavea brick(pucca)house.22 Iwas told thatone of the "beneficiaries" Sripal. Sripalclaimedthatthe bricksgiven to him were inferior yellow bricks(peelayeenth) thathad been improperly baked. Pettyofficials. Indira and the AwaasYojanaandthe Nirbal Varg HousingProgram the Bothprograms intendedto benefitpoor are WeakerSectionsHousingProgram.Ifthey did not get the loan. EvenManFriday. Thevillagedevelopment that he did not have any money. Inthe implementation developmentprograms." claimedthatthiswas exactlywhatthe villagedevelopment worker done. small-bonedman.greatdeal of importance attachedto not naminga sum.When villagers their exclusion from governmentservices because these were costly.24 Once againhe had to forkout the transportation expense to have the bricksdeliveredfrom a kiln nearthe village. immediately was by Sripal selectedforthisprogram the villageheadman.6.Sripal Rs. I could not help remarking it looked quite solid. required get the material workeraskedhimto payan additional 500 to get the bricks. competence. in orderto meettargets by higher set example. I spoketo himoutsidehis new house.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the exchange rate prevailing at the time of the incident in 1989. Instead of adopting the cumbersome technique of putting "the state" in quotation marks throughout the text. a remarkableomission" (1992a:45).the ruling partydid not pursue the investigation with great enthusiasm. 23.. however. the identities and occupations of all the people mentioned here have been altered beyond recognition.at least once every three years. Yet this silence is. but to a particularhistorical conjuncture of place. 2. 8. 22. and no concrete proof was ever uncovered. 20. 6. I use the term "hold court"because Sharmaji'smode of operation is reminiscent of an Indian darbaar. Since the word "federal" is rarely used in India. The term "ThirdWorld" encapsulates and homogenizes what are in fact diverse and heterogenous and "Third"worlds exist as separate and separable realities (Mohanty 1988). as Handelman has observed. 25.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.000 was allocated for such projects. Political parties rarely participate in village elections in the sense that candidates do not representnational or regional partieswhen contesting these elections. I later learned that Rs. In a similar manner. 21. has largely ignored the practices of bureaucracy. The scandal. 16.1. Such an analysis has important implications for political action. that is. 1 7. The headman is an official elected by all the registered voters of a village. although they may play important roles in representing the village to bureaucratic and party institutions. In addition. 7. perhaps even the prime minister. particularly as it emphasizes that the agents involved are not following a cultural script governed by rule-following behavior. Herzfeld remarks:"Thusanthropology. See the excellent concluding chapter of his monograph of the working class in Bengal (1989). $1 = Rs. the client in effect handed Verma the equivalent of 56 cents. power. Itshould be obvious that I am making a distinction between an empiricist epistemology and empirical methods. This level was defined as Rs." 4. his recent book (1993) restates it and develops the argument further. owing to the sensitive nature of this material. That figure is misleading. "the West" is obviously not a homogenous and unified entity. "central. blurred boundaries 395 . as it suggests that the struggle for hegemony is built into the construction of the state. Naturally. the number in the circle varying from three to a dozen depending on their populations. Similar questions were raised earlier by Nader (1972:306-307). a royal court. 1981) develops a call made by scholars such as Nader (1972) to "study up. for 15.. I am grateful to Don Moore for emphasizing this point to me. See also Achille Mbembe's (1992) wonderful article for its suggestive use of newspaper reports. 6. 5. not to a geographical space." 14.. The phrase is LataMani's (1989). I find JudithButler's(1990) concept of gender as performance very useful in thinking about this issue. 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. Headmen are neither considered part of the administration nor the grassroots embodiment of political parties. but not enough for a pair of rubber slippers. 18. 9. 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. 10. I therefore use the term simply to refer. 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. 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. 24. allegedly involved a kickback in a gun ordered by the Indian government from a Swedish manufacturer. in which he tackles this question head on."The officials at the Block office told me. Iam gratefulto Dipesh Chakrabarty firstbringingthis to my attention. that a sum of Rs. Like other government officials. It implies furtherthat "First" spaces (Ahmad 1987). this too is a pseudonym. I will thus capitalize it to highlight its problematic status. See the articles by Mitchell (1989) and Taussig (1992) on this matter. 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. 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. which came to be known as the Bofors Affair. 1983) have done for other institutions such as banks and schools." and attempts to do for bureaucracies what ethnographers such as Rohlen (1974. and knowledge. Handelman's work (1978. 3. A phenomenon that Johannes Fabian (1983) calls "allochronism. Like all the other names in this article. Michael Woost's (1993) fine essay also addresses similar questions. 11. 18. the village development worker is subject to frequent transfers. The largerproject has a significant oral historical and archival dimension as well as a wider sampling of the various media.000 of the total cost is given as a loan that has to be paid back in 20 installments stretching across ten years. 3. 12. I will refer to it by its Indian equivalent. however." 19. I am definitely not saying that empirical research needs to be abandoned. Sripalclaimed to know the exact amount by consu ting "people who can read and write. since it does not indicate purchasing power. 13. This point has been made by ParthaChatterjee(1990) in response to Charles Taylor (1990). with its propensity to focus on the exotic and the remarkable. 8.

since it is both externally derived and rhetorically factual. As Habermas (1989[1962]) makes clear. many of them depend on multinational wire service bureaus for international news. Ethnographically. Failureto recognize this is to essentialize essentialism. 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. literacy. I wish to thank an anonymous reviewer for raisingthese stimulating questions.and their antonyms-appear in the villagers' discourse. The program in question is the IntegratedRural Development Programme. 41. Inconsequence. independent state in precolonial and colonial South India (1987). 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. 33. I would like to thank Joel Migdal for pointing this out to me. others such as Benedict Anderson (1983) and Achille Mbembe (1992) have stressed the theoretical importance of newspapers in the construction of the nation and for the analysis of "the state. the national interest. however. These terms-urbanity. 36. 29. India Today is published in a number of Indian languages and has a large audience in small towns and villages." respectively. denotes a particular historical and cultural formation shaped by feudalism. Herzfeld has issued a warning that we would do well to heed: "We cannot usefully make any hard-and-fastdistinctions between ruraland urban. It would perhaps be more accurate to talk of "subject-positions" ratherthan "subjects"here. 28. 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. Although literacy rates are relatively low throughout the region. BernardCohn. the "public sphere" is the space where civil society emerges with the rise of bourgeois social formations. Forthose unfamiliarwith the Indian context. the rise of capitalism. For example. This is not to imply that anthropologists have not incorporated newspapers into their analysis in the past (see for example Benedict 1946). At prevailing exchange rates. the impact of newspapers goes far beyond the literatepopulation as news reportsare orally transmittedacross a wide range of groups. The sweet in question is a regionally famous one-pedaas. Corruptionalso figures prominently in the vernacular press. from Mathura. "Attacking 'the state' and 'bureaucracy' (often furtherreified as 'the system') is a tactic of social life. I have deliberately avoided use of the term "public sphere" in this article. Here. transnational radio. The symbolic representation of the state is as yet largely unexplored territory.it would lead us to ignore the multiplicity of sins covered by the monolithic stereotypes of 'the bureaucracy' and 'the state'" (1992a:45). The notion of the public sphere. 35. 27. Since the argument that follows raises doubts about the wholesale import of these categories to the particularcontext being analyzed. the intrusionof media language into village discourse has largely been ignored" (1992b:94). local and national. Therefore."The only other importantsource of news in ruralareas. including the state. Herzfeld explains the marginal role of newspapers very clearly: "Journalismis treated as not authentically ethnographic. 40.with a few notable exceptions. 64 paise was equal to 3. 32. I have translated all the titles from the Hindi original. kingly rule. 31. Political news on state-runtelevision.6 cents. 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. 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). this notion of the "public sphere" is not particularly helpful.. A detailed study would also have to account for the complex relationship between domestic and international capital accumulation. and it is there that checks on state power emerge through the force of literate public opinion (Peters 1993..26. and in what follows I will compare the coverage there with magazines such as India Today. This is a task that I propose to undertake in a full-length monograph. 38. Further. 39.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 warm one's pockets is a metaphor for taking a bribe. I wanted to stress that we not forget that the detailed analysis of everyday life is overdetermined by transnational influences.. has demonstrated how the ImperialAssemblage of 1877 enabled the British colonial state to represent its authority over India at the same time as it made "manifest and compelling the [colonial] sociology of India" (1987b:658). for instance. illiterateand learned (or at least journalistic). 37. This fact should dispel the myth that the discourse of corruption is to be found only among the urban middle class of "Westernized"Indians. is met with a high degree of skepticism. See also Nicholas Dirks's study of a small. Herzfeld makes a strong case for close scrutiny to newspapers even when the unit of analysis is "the village". Doordarshan. rationaldebate among bourgeois subjects could take place about a variety of topics. Itis there that critical. 64 crore = $36 million. 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 importance of urban centers. in press). 30.. and they are part of that discourse . 396 american ethnologist . because everyone concerned knows that it is the mouthpiece of the government. 34. and the dominant role of the church as an institutionthat is not replicated in the same form elsewhere in the world. by contrast. although none of the locally distributed newspapers (English-language or vernacular) are even partially owned by transnational corporations. Rs. the press is relatively autonomous and frequently critical of "the state. less than the cost of a cup of tea. not an analytical strategy.

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. Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister of India. which ethnographically describe corruption through observation and interviews with state officials. 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. 1 lakh were approximately equal to $6. tehsil. In this article my analysis is limited to Hindi newspapers that publish local news of the Mandi region. however. the ethnographic analysis of the everyday functioning of the state and the discursive construction of the state in public culture. levels of government are corruptmay not hold that belief for the same reasons as Ram Singh. Television. 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. all officials have jobs in which they are transferredfrequently. for example. For example. emphasis in original). What I am attempting to stress here. 1972. invariable This foundational enterprise norms that would help decide if certain actions are to be classified as "corrupt. 58. Rs. 45." to mean debasement. The Vidhan Sabha is the upper house of Parliament and the Lok Sabha the lower one. His reference to "illiteracy"must not be taken literally. neither occupies a space of pure oppositionality to dominant discourses and practices nor is simply duped by them. I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for raising this important question. 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. the media spawn an extraordinarily homogenous as well as pervasive set of political cliches. most of its grassrootsprotests are organized around local instances of corruption. At the time this interview took place. 43. or district(depending on their circle of responsibility). 57. however is how this discourse is manipulated" (1992b:99. dishonesty. 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. Except at the very lowest levels. some quite explicitly set out to undermine the assumptions of modernization theory. Whether it does or not has to do with the level of organization of differentgroups that are affected by it. 55. 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. 52. Of course. Monteiro 1970. namely. Much less well-explored. Huntington 1968. Talk of manipulation sometimes seems to make it appear as if there is a "deep" intention working toward particular goals. the diverse ways in which such discourse can be used in different circumstances.000. however. what Anderson (1983) has termed "bureaucraticpilgrimages" usually cover quite an extensive area. Like the folklore of earlier times. Maddox (1990) suggests that scholars may have their own reasons for looking so hard for resistance." 47. It is in this sense of violation of norms that the term is often extended to moral life quite removed from "the state. a notion clearly rooted in Enlightenment ideas about the individual.000. 1985). a highly placed official who fails to help a close relative or fellow villager obtain a government position is often roundly criticized by people for not fulfilling his obligations to his kinsmen and village brothers. A fuller analysis would draw on the role of radio and television (both state-controlled) in all of this. leading to a prolonged period of intellectual inactivity. Leys 1965. 61. 50. 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. 51. 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. although the rhetoric of the Kisan Union predicates its opposition to the state in terms of the state's anti-farmerpolicies. block. The discourse of accountability opened up by the rhetoricof citizenship need not become politically significant. Other peasants who believe that lower. I am grateful to LataMani for stressing this point to me. and contamination." 59. 54. A representative sample of the different viewpoints in the corruption literaturecan be obtained from Clarke 1983. At the time of the interview. and Tilman 1968. 46. Forms of unambiguous resistance are rare blurred boundaries 397 . 53. immorality. Sometimes the word shaasan. On the other hand. not all the contributions to the corruption literaturefell into this ethnocentric trap. 1984. Heidenheimer 1970. Officials cannot be posted to their "home"village. For a recent monograph. He may very well believe in it for other reasons as well. decay. The only exception is to be found in the series of studies by Wade (1982." soon degenerated into ethnocentrism and dogma. 49.one would probably find that it attains a very differenttexture. 56. One lakh = 100. The modernism of the postcolonial nation-state is exemplified by the conceptofcitizenship enshrined in the Indian constitution. Itis not surprisingthat Ram Singh. I prefer to think of employability. An excellent study of the importance of rumor in the countryside is to be found in Amin 1984."is also employed.42. vice. Although the circle in which they can be transferredvaries by rank. seems to have influenced his views on this matter: "we get a little more worldly. The behavior of corruptofficials then becomes furtherevidence of the state's exploitation of farmers. The literatureon corruption has been bedeviled by the effort to find a set of culturally universal. but not upper. Scott 1969. 44. see Klitgaard1988. in certain regions of Bihar). Interestinglyenough. 60. Leff1964. 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." 48. in a state as large as UttarPradesh. which is closer to "administration. impurity. like other people.

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

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