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


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

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

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

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

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

localofficialsoftenhaveto seekout beneficiaries can of The beneficiariesof these programs then employ the authority the upper authorities.When his namewas the taken. Thevillagedevelopment that he did not have any money.24 Once againhe had to forkout the transportation expense to have the bricksdeliveredfrom a kiln nearthe village.that a good face on the bunglednegotiation suggesting it would not be a big loss if they did by not succeed in theirefforts.200. respectively). small-bonedman.greatdeal of importance attachedto not naminga sum. who was still sitting No one could tell them what the current figurewas. was so was a thin. in undertwo government the Severalhouses have been constructed Alipur programs. Sripalclaimedthatthe bricksgiven to him were inferior yellow bricks(peelayeenth) thathad been improperly baked. AwaasYojana meantforlandless was peoplewho do nothavea brick(pucca)house. theycame away Although knewthatthe youngmen would roundof negotiations. 1.Vermamanagedto appearto be willingto do the work. Pettyofficials.Ifthey did not get the loan. 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. I could not help remarking it looked quite solid.000 if you want fromthe cost of the pleaded material[fromthe portionof the house grantreserved purchasing for but materials]. "TakeRs.He also discoveredthatthe cost of laborwas supposedto be blurred boundaries 381 .The act of givingthe bribebecameentirelya gestureof goodwiIIon the partof the customersrather was a to thana consciousmechanism greasethe wheels. immediately was by Sripal selectedforthisprogram the villageheadman. approved. to on levels of the bureaucracy exertsome pressure local officials. Indira AwaasYojana(literally.21 to capitalrequired negotiatedeftly they lackedthe cultural and Theentireepisodewas skilfullymanagedby Sharmaji Verma. providing had Sripal himwith material worthonly Rs. Sharmaji colleagueon behalfof the clients. they would continueto farmas they usuallydid-that not alwayshave theirway. as the young men learned. I spoketo himoutsidehis new house.SherSingh. were expressingfrustration they although forthose services.therefore.sayingitwas notforhimto intervene.000 out of the Rs. had his photograph he andthenopened an accountin his namein a bank. But Sripal that dismissedthatnotion. EvenManFriday.The "practice" bribe giving was not.7. required get the material workeraskedhimto payan additional 500 to get the bricks.Moreimportantly.Forthe paperwork was chargedRs." claimedthatthiswas exactlywhatthe villagedevelopment worker done.The money building to to site transported the construction came out of his own pocket. villagedevelopmentworker23 took himto the town.Sripal Rs. of and Verma.000 allocatedto him. don'task me to pay you anything. thatitwas all upto Sharmaji there. that Afterthathe was given a slip (parchi) entitledhimto pick up predetermined of quantities materialfrom a store designatedby the village developmentworker. Indira and the AwaasYojanaandthe Nirbal Varg HousingProgram the Bothprograms intendedto benefitpoor are WeakerSectionsHousingProgram. and to refused answer. stateofficialsgot the betterof a couple of inexperienced for of however. Inthe implementation developmentprograms. Inthiscase. not more than 25 years old. When I saw the brickone-roomdwelling constructed next to his mother'shouse. in orderto meettargets by higher set example. harijans less thanone acre of land.simply an economic transactionbut a culturalpracticethat requireda great degree of performative of they complainedaboutthe corruption stateofficials.and had an income below a specifiedlimit.TheIndira whereasthe NirbalVargAwaasYojanawas for all those who owned (untouchables). Interestingly. withoutfertilizer. who lived in a clusterof Sripal low-caste(jatav)homes in the village.6.22 Iwas told thatone of the "beneficiaries" Sripal. competence. were not just voicing because thatwas no smallfactor. clients.When villagers their exclusion from governmentservices because these were costly. lackeda brickhouse.

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]"). he produceda copy of it for me.who is targeted."Sittingin frontof the empty space thatwas to be the door to his he does it make?" difference told me thathe was resignedto goingto jail.Sripal to committed protecting are Becausethe centralandstategovernments theoretically hierarchy. [kaagaz-kalam at Frustrated abouthisdoorlesshouse." case demonunsuccessfulin his appealsfor justice."The letteralleged that the village developmentworkerhad failed to supply the to and necessarymaterial thatbecausethe headmanhadthreatened beat him up he had been forcedto flee the village.he approached lawyerto draft letterto the he saw thathis complaints in the area.I want to addressexplicitlywhat it tells us about dimensionsto transnational linkages.Clearly. Sripal In thatday andthatto leavethemwould have been construedas inhospitable. how they are impletions for such programs. so it was impossibleto live in the new house.300 allocatedfor laborcosts in the program.000 towardthe cost of completingthe house."Ifyou don'tpay up.3.25 imprisonment told he is of my relatives a jailwarden[thanedaadr.Sripal not dauntedin his efforts seek justice. the scheduledcaste people such as cannotexpect to find visibletransnational that is that would requirea kind of immediatedetermination encounter.Fearing worst.Butthe villagedevelopmentworker Sripal Sripal "One unlesshe paidback Rs.SherSinghstoppedasking with threatened to come to laboron his farm. to When I asked Sripal tell me what a police contingentwas sent to the villageto investigate. IMFconditionalities not empirically the But program. Sripalhimselfis illiterate. 382 american ethnologist . of had appealedto the authority a personthreerungshigherin the bureaucratic worker.Although had builtthe house himselfbecause he was an expertmason."Living this is as good as beingdead. "What house. addition. he could not do any heavyworkbecause he had brokenhis armsome time ago. every grassroots do untrueand analyticallyindefensible. and mentedand at what levels. by forcing Indian episode inthe house-building explainthisparticular directly do the to curtaildomesticexpenditure. No officialhad come to inspectthe workto see if there was anythingmissing. Afterthe police visit.Sripal's Eventhoughhe was ultimately classes have a practicalknowledgeof the multiple of stratesthateven members the subaltern of Facedwiththe depredations the headmanandvillagedevelopment levels of stateauthority. I'll have you put away in jail. Sripaldid not receive any material a door and a window. he threatened beat him up so badlythat he would never the enterthe villageagain.Despitethe threat his life. daredto harmSripalphysically.He even hiredSripalto construct In a home for anotherpersonunderthe same program.became angryat Sripalfor refusing come to workone had thathe could notpossiblyhavegone becausehis relatives come over explained day. for how manyyearssuch programs such as buildinghouses for if one wantsto understand why developmentprograms Similarly. Sripal said.When a a elicited no response. continue. When SherSinghfoundout thatSripalhad complainedabout him and the villagedevelopto ment workerat the Blockoffice.reimbursed him. "Readit yourself. the lettersaid. to he he neverreceivedthe Rs.he would riskretaliation Beforeleavingthis episode with Sripal. conditionalities have budgetary implicagovernment are These influencewhich programs funded. "Whatcan I tell you?"he asked.SherSinghmade peace with Sripal." reportedly Sripal.Forexample. any case.who had been employing to on Sripalas a daily laborer his farm. Meanwhile.Sripalfled fromthe villageand went to live with his to to was in-laws.Thisstrategy the highestadministrative District paidoff in that authority Magistrate. he lodgedcomplaints the Blockofficeand at the bank that lent him the money for construction. for As if this were not enough.Sendingthe police to the village was a clear warningto SherSinghthat if he arm fromthe repressive of the state.SherSingh. Sripal like asked.his complaintregarding threatto his life was taken quite seriously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I later learned that Rs. however. I will henceforth omit quotation marks except at points where I want to draw attention explicitly to the reified nature of the object denoted by that term. I use it to refer to the effects of hegemonic representations of the West ratherthan its subjugated traditions. 6. this too is a pseudonym. 2. "the West" is obviously not a homogenous and unified entity. that a sum of Rs. and knowledge. That figure is misleading.400 (approximately $215) per year for the 1992-93 fiscal year. that is. 8.. as Handelman has observed.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. since it does not indicate purchasing power. in which he tackles this question head on. 13. the client in effect handed Verma the equivalent of 56 cents. 18. 20. 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. 6. 3. the village development worker is subject to frequent transfers. his recent book (1993) restates it and develops the argument further." 4. See the excellent concluding chapter of his monograph of the working class in Bengal (1989). but to a particularhistorical conjuncture of place." 14. owing to the sensitive nature of this material. the number in the circle varying from three to a dozen depending on their populations. which came to be known as the Bofors Affair. I will refer to it by its Indian equivalent. 5. however. Instead of adopting the cumbersome technique of putting "the state" in quotation marks throughout the text. least once every three years. 12. particularly as it emphasizes that the agents involved are not following a cultural script governed by rule-following behavior. perhaps even the prime minister. "central. 18. See also Achille Mbembe's (1992) wonderful article for its suggestive use of newspaper reports." and attempts to do for bureaucracies what ethnographers such as Rohlen (1974. 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. Yet this silence is. I am grateful to Don Moore for emphasizing this point to me. See the articles by Mitchell (1989) and Taussig (1992) on this matter. 1983) have done for other institutions such as banks and schools. Like other government officials. 21. 1 7. Naturally. This level was defined as Rs. 16. I am definitely not saying that empirical research needs to be abandoned. 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. but not enough for a pair of rubber slippers. Herzfeld remarks:"Thusanthropology. for 15. has largely ignored the practices of bureaucracy.000 of the total cost is given as a loan that has to be paid back in 20 installments stretching across ten years. a remarkableomission" (1992a:45). The largerproject has a significant oral historical and archival dimension as well as a wider sampling of the various media. Michael Woost's (1993) fine essay also addresses similar questions.. as it suggests that the struggle for hegemony is built into the construction of the state."The officials at the Block office told me. 11. not to a geographical space.the ruling partydid not pursue the investigation with great enthusiasm. Political parties rarely participate in village elections in the sense that candidates do not representnational or regional partieswhen contesting these elections." 19. a royal court. power. Handelman's work (1978. allegedly involved a kickback in a gun ordered by the Indian government from a Swedish manufacturer. Sripalclaimed to know the exact amount by consu ting "people who can read and write.. Iam gratefulto Dipesh Chakrabarty firstbringingthis to my attention. Similar questions were raised earlier by Nader (1972:306-307). 23. In addition. The headman is an official elected by all the registered voters of a village. 9. blurred boundaries 395 . I find JudithButler's(1990) concept of gender as performance very useful in thinking about this issue. Such an analysis has important implications for political action. the identities and occupations of all the people mentioned here have been altered beyond recognition. $1 = Rs. I will thus capitalize it to highlight its problematic status. In a similar manner. I therefore use the term simply to refer. I use the term "hold court"because Sharmaji'smode of operation is reminiscent of an Indian darbaar. Since the word "federal" is rarely used in India. 24. 3. This point has been made by ParthaChatterjee(1990) in response to Charles Taylor (1990). The scandal. The phrase is LataMani's (1989). 7.1. The term "ThirdWorld" encapsulates and homogenizes what are in fact diverse and heterogenous and "Third"worlds exist as separate and separable realities (Mohanty 1988). and no concrete proof was ever uncovered. 1981) develops a call made by scholars such as Nader (1972) to "study up. Headmen are neither considered part of the administration nor the grassroots embodiment of political parties. 8. 25.000 was allocated for such projects. At the exchange rate prevailing at the time of the incident in 1989. A phenomenon that Johannes Fabian (1983) calls "allochronism. 22. Itshould be obvious that I am making a distinction between an empiricist epistemology and empirical methods. Like all the other names in this article. although they may play important roles in representing the village to bureaucratic and party institutions. It implies furtherthat "First" spaces (Ahmad 1987). 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. with its propensity to focus on the exotic and the remarkable.

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

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

While being a particulardescription. or apart from the context being analyzed. 69. The analyst. Haraway brilliantly undermines the claims of objectivity embodied in these discourses by showing that the "the view from nowhere. Mankekar1993). the effortto show resistance even in overt gestures of deference requires the positing of hyperstrategic rational actors. Anderson points to the similarityof nation-states by emphasizing the "modularity" "the last wave" of nationalism (1983:104-128). My effort to describe Ram Singh's position according to class. I doubt if an upper-caste villager would describe Ram Singh in this way. I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for forcing me to clarify this point. an analytical strategythat is of dubious value. and discursively embedded visions that are not for that reason unimportantor unredeemable. 64. Instead. of 65. incorrect implementation of projects aimed at furtheringits interests. Abu-Lughod. Indeed. 1989e T. too. (Plunder in T. I am not defending the naive possibility of "indigenous" theory. caste. 1989c Mathura ka Pedaa Khilaao to Telephone Bolnay Lagaingay. Following Foucault and especially Haraway (1988). incomplete consciousness of interests. I want to argue that the search to escape the mutual determination of largersociopolitical contexts and discursive positions is untenable. (Police Busy Warming Own Pockets.(Blackmarketeeringin Sugar and Kerosene. American Ethnologist17:43-55. 1989f VidyutStationsay Bheed Chay TransformerUthaa lay Gayee. See also Appadurai 1984. Aspataal may Loot Khasot. July 8.) July 18." He stresses that "the state" is "not a 'thing' but a 'happening' " (1985:156) and that it is riven by internal contradictions. 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). neither in all likelihood would a government official. context-dependent. anything but an arbitraryone.) July 22. Frustratedwith the reification of the state and convinced that it was just a source of mystification. B. Itmight be objected that this kind of statement involves an analytical circularity:constructions of the state are contextual and situated. 1992) reminds me that even in the United States. Feed Them Sweets. and power are the central concerns. I would argue. 1989b Cheeni aur Mitti kay Tel ki Kaalabazaari. 398 american ethnologist . 63. This is precisely what "scientific" discourses seek to achieve-a universally verifiable description that is independent of observer and context. it is. gender.) July 22.) July 25. for it is not clear to me what such a concept could possibly mean in the era of postcolonialism and late capitalism. yet any attempt to define context and situation involves the use of discourses that may themselves have been shaped by constructions of the state. Abrams. poverty. She argues that all claims to objectivity are partialperspectives."masks a will-to-power that constitutes its own political project. and age hierarchies flows out of a social scientific discourse and a sense of political engagement as a postcolonial subject in which inequality. (Mob Carriesaway Six Transformers from ElectricityStation.indeed. Itshould be clear that I am not suggesting that it is only here that possibilities for intervention exist. The source is A Tracton Monetary Reform (Keynes 1971 [1923]). and Chatterjee (1986) stresses the "derivative"character of Third World nationalisms. the notion of "civil society" has very little purchase outside academic circles. 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). 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. among other things.) July 22. Philip 1988 Notes on the Difficulty of Studying the State. Amartya Sen's study of famines (1982) employs a theory of entitlements to explain who suffers in a famine and why. references cited Aaj 1989a Jayb Garmaanay May Juti Hai Police. 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