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

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

AKHILGUPTA-Stanford University

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

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

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

blurred boundaries


Yang 1989). The discourse of corruption turns out to be a key arena through which the state. is mediated by local bureaucratsbut cannot be understood entirely by staying within the geographically bounded arena of a subdistricttownship. Hannerz 1986). 1991. I use the analysis of the discourse of corruption to question its utility in the Indian context.. Herzfeld 1992a. agriculturalextension agents. Surprisinglylittle research has been conducted in the small towns (in the Indian case. Nugent 1994. it is not by itself sufficient to comprehend how the state comes to be constructed and represented. Ashforth 1990. and nations are no longer seen to map unproblematically onto different spaces (Appadurai 1986.3 In addition to description and analysis. This is the site where the majorityof people in a ruraland agriculturalcountry such as India come into contact with "the state."Once cultures.d. Gupta and Ferguson 1992. 1987b. Cohn 1987a. one has to rethinkthe relationship between bodily presence and the generation 376 american ethnologist . This necessitates some reflection on the limitations inherent in data collected in "the field. epochal events. Kasaba 1994. challenged.Such claims to truthgain their force precisely by clinging to bounded notions of "society" and "culture. Urla 1993.4 Research on the state." and this is where many of their images of the state are forged. needs to be reexamined. thereby providing a set of propositions that can be developed. Taussig 1992. this article also has a programmaticaim: to marksome new trails along which future anthropological research on the state might profitably proceed. The goal is to map out some of the most importantconnections in a very large picture. Mitchell 1989. Very little rich ethnographic evidence documents what lower-level officials actually do in the name of the state." The discourse of corruption.practices in which it is instantiated. Anagnost 1994. In so doing.Methodologically. with its focus on large-scale structures. the staff of the civil hospital. elementary school teachers. 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. Skocpol 1979). atthe level of the subdistrict [tehsil]) where a large number of state officials. n. Brow 1988. live and work-the village-level workers. citizens. 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. and other organizations and aggregations come to be imagined. and refutedby others working on this topic. societies. land record keepers. Handelman 1978. on which such a large portion of the scholarship on the state is based. forexample. What is the epistemological status of the object of analysis? What is the appropriate mode of gathering data. 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. I see it as a mechanism through which "the state" itself is discursively constituted. 1981. I do not want to suggest that the face-to-face methods of traditional ethnography are irrelevant. 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. 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.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"). in press. Although research into the practices of local state officials is necessary. Although in this article I stress the role of public culture and transnational phenomena. Instead of treating corruption as a dysfunctional aspect of state organizations. 1985. and others. 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. major policies. In this article I argue that the conventional distinction between state and civil society. and "important"people (Evanset al.

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

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

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

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

that a good face on the bunglednegotiation suggesting it would not be a big loss if they did by not succeed in theirefforts. were not just voicing because thatwas no smallfactor.simply an economic transactionbut a culturalpracticethat requireda great degree of performative of they complainedaboutthe corruption stateofficials. approved.He also discoveredthatthe cost of laborwas supposedto be blurred boundaries 381 . stateofficialsgot the betterof a couple of inexperienced for of however. But Sripal that dismissedthatnotion.Ifthey did not get the loan.Vermamanagedto appearto be willingto do the work.When his namewas the taken. not more than 25 years old. had his photograph he andthenopened an accountin his namein a not alwayshave theirway.24 Once againhe had to forkout the transportation expense to have the bricksdeliveredfrom a kiln nearthe village.and had an income below a specifiedlimit.Forthe paperwork was chargedRs. small-bonedman. to on levels of the bureaucracy exertsome pressure local officials. harijans less thanone acre of land. Interestingly.greatdeal of importance attachedto not naminga sum. When I saw the brickone-roomdwelling constructed next to his mother'shouse.000 if you want fromthe cost of the pleaded material[fromthe portionof the house grantreserved purchasing for but materials]. that Afterthathe was given a slip (parchi) entitledhimto pick up predetermined of quantities materialfrom a store designatedby the village developmentworker. immediately was by Sripal selectedforthisprogram the villageheadman. "TakeRs. thatitwas all upto Sharmaji there. competence. were expressingfrustration they although forthose services.The "practice" bribe giving was not. I could not help remarking it looked quite solid." claimedthatthiswas exactlywhatthe villagedevelopment worker done. 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.The act of givingthe bribebecameentirelya gestureof goodwiIIon the partof the customersrather was a to thana consciousmechanism greasethe wheels.therefore.localofficialsoftenhaveto seekout beneficiaries can of The beneficiariesof these programs then employ the authority the upper authorities.22 Iwas told thatone of the "beneficiaries" Sripal. Pettyofficials. and to refused answer. as the young men learned. who lived in a clusterof Sripal low-caste(jatav)homes in the village. Indira AwaasYojana(literally. EvenManFriday.21 to capitalrequired negotiatedeftly they lackedthe cultural and Theentireepisodewas skilfullymanagedby Sharmaji Verma.000 out of the Rs. clients. withoutfertilizer. villagedevelopmentworker23 took himto the town.When villagers their exclusion from governmentservices because these were costly. don'task me to pay you anything.The money building to to site transported the construction came out of his own pocket. lackeda brickhouse. was so was a thin. providing had Sripal himwith material worthonly Rs.TheIndira whereasthe NirbalVargAwaasYojanawas for all those who owned (untouchables). in orderto meettargets by higher set example.SherSingh. in undertwo government the Severalhouses have been constructed Alipur programs. AwaasYojana meantforlandless was peoplewho do nothavea brick(pucca)house. theycame away Although knewthatthe youngmen would roundof negotiations. Sripalclaimedthatthe bricksgiven to him were inferior yellow bricks(peelayeenth) thathad been improperly baked.000 allocatedto him.sayingitwas notforhimto intervene. Sharmaji colleagueon behalfof the clients.Sripal Rs.6. of and Verma. Inthiscase. respectively). required get the material workeraskedhimto payan additional 500 to get the bricks.7. I spoketo himoutsidehis new house. Inthe implementation developmentprograms.Moreimportantly. they would continueto farmas they usuallydid-that is. Thevillagedevelopment that he did not have any money. 1.200. who was still sitting No one could tell them what the current figurewas. Indira and the AwaasYojanaandthe Nirbal Varg HousingProgram the Bothprograms intendedto benefitpoor are WeakerSectionsHousingProgram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"the West" is obviously not a homogenous and unified entity. This level was defined as Rs. Headmen are neither considered part of the administration nor the grassroots embodiment of political parties. the number in the circle varying from three to a dozen depending on their populations. the identities and occupations of all the people mentioned here have been altered beyond recognition. 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. that a sum of Rs. in which he tackles this question head on. 3. See the excellent concluding chapter of his monograph of the working class in Bengal (1989). 8. It implies furtherthat "First" spaces (Ahmad 1987). Herzfeld remarks:"Thusanthropology. 3. Like other government officials. Handelman's work (1978. 21. blurred boundaries 395 . 18. At the exchange rate prevailing at the time of the incident in 1989. Yet this silence is. allegedly involved a kickback in a gun ordered by the Indian government from a Swedish manufacturer. I later learned that Rs. See the articles by Mitchell (1989) and Taussig (1992) on this matter. I will refer to it by its Indian equivalent. and no concrete proof was ever uncovered. the village development worker is subject to frequent transfers. as Handelman has observed. 22. Political parties rarely participate in village elections in the sense that candidates do not representnational or regional partieswhen contesting these elections. The largerproject has a significant oral historical and archival dimension as well as a wider sampling of the various media. but to a particularhistorical conjuncture of place. Since the word "federal" is rarely used in India. particularly as it emphasizes that the agents involved are not following a cultural script governed by rule-following behavior.400 (approximately $215) per year for the 1992-93 fiscal year. I use the term "hold court"because Sharmaji'smode of operation is reminiscent of an Indian darbaar. 1981) develops a call made by scholars such as Nader (1972) to "study up. Like all the other names in this article. Similar questions were raised earlier by Nader (1972:306-307). The scandal.000 of the total cost is given as a loan that has to be paid back in 20 installments stretching across ten years. 6. 5. 2. 7. 11. The headman is an official elected by all the registered voters of a village.. the client in effect handed Verma the equivalent of 56 cents. 20. "central. not to a geographical space. That figure is misleading. Iam gratefulto Dipesh Chakrabarty firstbringingthis to my attention. I will thus capitalize it to highlight its problematic status. which came to be known as the Bofors Affair. 24. $1 = Rs. 12. In a similar manner.. 6. 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. owing to the sensitive nature of this material. a remarkableomission" (1992a:45). this too is a pseudonym. Such an analysis has important implications for political action. The phrase is LataMani's (1989). 25. 8.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. Sripalclaimed to know the exact amount by consu ting "people who can read and write. and knowledge. for 15. A phenomenon that Johannes Fabian (1983) calls "allochronism. In addition. 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 least once every three years.the ruling partydid not pursue the investigation with great enthusiasm. See also Achille Mbembe's (1992) wonderful article for its suggestive use of newspaper reports. 13. Itshould be obvious that I am making a distinction between an empiricist epistemology and empirical methods. power. but not enough for a pair of rubber slippers."The officials at the Block office told me. This point has been made by ParthaChatterjee(1990) in response to Charles Taylor (1990). I am grateful to Don Moore for emphasizing this point to me." 14. I find JudithButler's(1990) concept of gender as performance very useful in thinking about this issue. 1983) have done for other institutions such as banks and schools. 10. I use it to refer to the effects of hegemonic representations of the West ratherthan its subjugated traditions." 4. 18. has largely ignored the practices of bureaucracy. Naturally. I am definitely not saying that empirical research needs to be abandoned. his recent book (1993) restates it and develops the argument further.000 was allocated for such projects. although they may play important roles in representing the village to bureaucratic and party institutions. that is. perhaps even the prime minister." and attempts to do for bureaucracies what ethnographers such as Rohlen (1974. The term "ThirdWorld" encapsulates and homogenizes what are in fact diverse and heterogenous and "Third"worlds exist as separate and separable realities (Mohanty 1988). however. Instead of adopting the cumbersome technique of putting "the state" in quotation marks throughout the text. 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. 1 7. as it suggests that the struggle for hegemony is built into the construction of the state. 9. 23. with its propensity to focus on the exotic and the remarkable.1. 16. however." 19. a royal court. since it does not indicate purchasing power. Michael Woost's (1993) fine essay also addresses similar questions. 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 therefore use the term simply to refer.

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

Interestinglyenough. A representative sample of the different viewpoints in the corruption literaturecan be obtained from Clarke 1983.42. in certain regions of Bihar). The behavior of corruptofficials then becomes furtherevidence of the state's exploitation of farmers." 48."is also employed. Forms of unambiguous resistance are rare blurred boundaries 397 . leading to a prolonged period of intellectual inactivity. 45. some quite explicitly set out to undermine the assumptions of modernization theory. 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. vice. 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. invariable This foundational enterprise norms that would help decide if certain actions are to be classified as "corrupt. Much less well-explored. What I am attempting to stress here. Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister of India. Itis not surprisingthat Ram Singh. 54. 57. On the other hand. The Vidhan Sabha is the upper house of Parliament and the Lok Sabha the lower one." to mean debasement. but not upper. Talk of manipulation sometimes seems to make it appear as if there is a "deep" intention working toward particular goals. which is closer to "administration. The literatureon corruption has been bedeviled by the effort to find a set of culturally universal. most of its grassrootsprotests are organized around local instances of corruption. see Klitgaard1988." soon degenerated into ethnocentrism and dogma. Whether it does or not has to do with the level of organization of differentgroups that are affected by it. 60. tehsil. Sometimes the word shaasan. 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. and contamination. Except at the very lowest levels. An excellent study of the importance of rumor in the countryside is to be found in Amin 1984. Of course. His reference to "illiteracy"must not be taken literally. Television. immorality. Like the folklore of earlier times.000. 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. 44. I prefer to think of employability. Scott 1969. for example. Monteiro 1970. 53. decay. 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. 49. 50. all officials have jobs in which they are transferredfrequently. Rs. I am grateful to LataMani for stressing this point to me. 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. impurity. 52. He may very well believe in it for other reasons as well. the diverse ways in which such discourse can be used in different circumstances. a notion clearly rooted in Enlightenment ideas about the individual. not all the contributions to the corruption literaturefell into this ethnocentric trap. Officials cannot be posted to their "home"village. The only exception is to be found in the series of studies by Wade (1982. levels of government are corruptmay not hold that belief for the same reasons as Ram Singh. At the time of the interview. I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for raising this important question. In this article my analysis is limited to Hindi newspapers that publish local news of the Mandi region." 59. 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. 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 would probably find that it attains a very differenttexture. although the rhetoric of the Kisan Union predicates its opposition to the state in terms of the state's anti-farmerpolicies. Leff1964. 1985). 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. block. 1 lakh were approximately equal to $6. Maddox (1990) suggests that scholars may have their own reasons for looking so hard for resistance. however. what Anderson (1983) has termed "bureaucraticpilgrimages" usually cover quite an extensive area. A fuller analysis would draw on the role of radio and television (both state-controlled) in all of this. The modernism of the postcolonial nation-state is exemplified by the conceptofcitizenship enshrined in the Indian constitution. however. the media spawn an extraordinarily homogenous as well as pervasive set of political cliches. the ethnographic analysis of the everyday functioning of the state and the discursive construction of the state in public culture. emphasis in original). however is how this discourse is manipulated" (1992b:99. 46. 51. 1972. 1984. Heidenheimer 1970. 55. or district(depending on their circle of responsibility). At the time this interview took place. in a state as large as UttarPradesh. which ethnographically describe corruption through observation and interviews with state officials. One lakh = 100. Leys 1965. It is in this sense of violation of norms that the term is often extended to moral life quite removed from "the state. and Tilman 1968. For example. like other people. For a recent monograph. 61. The discourse of accountability opened up by the rhetoricof citizenship need not become politically significant. neither occupies a space of pure oppositionality to dominant discourses and practices nor is simply duped by them. namely.000. Huntington 1968." 47. Other peasants who believe that lower. 58. seems to have influenced his views on this matter: "we get a little more worldly. 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. 43. Although the circle in which they can be transferredvaries by rank. dishonesty. 56.

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

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