Advertisement

Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 49–70 | Cite as

How Women Talk in Indian Democracy

  • Paromita SanyalEmail author
  • Vijayendra Rao
  • Umang Prabhakar
Article

Abstract

In democracies, political institutions based on deliberation offer citizens scope for talk-based participation in development and governance. A prominent example is the Indian gram sabha, or village assembly. We undertake a talk-centered analysis of women’s participation in village assemblies and examine if associational membership, in the form of self-help group (SHG) membership, makes a difference in how women frame their concerns and demands addressed to the state. Analyzing 255 village assembly transcripts from four South Indian states, we find that women’s participation varies vastly between states, and SHG membership matters for narrative style. In Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, women associated with SHGs employed a wider variety of narrative styles and utilized a more complex structure to convey their problems and demands compared to non-member women. Drawing on this analysis, we argue that SHGs contribute to deepening democracy by improving the quality of women’s participation in deliberative political institutions. We discuss the mechanisms through which this influence might come to bear. This study contributes to understanding the link between associational life and democracy and the political sociology of democracy.

Keywords

Women’s political participation Deliberative democracy Village assemblies Gram Sabha India Self-help groups Women’s associations 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We acknowledge The World Bank Group for funding the data collection and The President’s Council of Cornell Women (PCCW) at Cornell University for awarding the Affinito-Stewart Grant to the corresponding author, which funded the data analysis. We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for providing valuable feedback. We take all responsibility for our work.

References

  1. Agarwala, Rina. 2013. Informal labor, formal politics, and dignified discontent in India. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Almond, Gabriel, and Sidney Verba. 1963. The civic culture. Political attitudes and democracy in five nations. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  3. Baiocchi, Gianpaolo. 2003. Emergent public spheres: Talking politics in participatory governance. American Sociological Review 68 (1): 52–74.Google Scholar
  4. Baiocchi, Gianpaolo. 2005. Militants and citizens: The politics of participatory democracy in Porto Alegre. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Baiocchi, Gianpaolo, Patrick Heller, and Marcelo Kunrath Silva. 2011. Bootstrapping democracy: Transforming local governance and civil society in Brazil. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Ban, Radu, and Vijayendra Rao. 2008. Tokenism or agency? The impact of women’s reservations on village democracies in South India. Economic Development and Cultural Change 56 (3): 501–530.Google Scholar
  7. Ban, Radu, Saumitra Jha, and Vijayendra Rao. 2012. Who has voice in a deliberative democracy? Evidence from transcripts of village parliaments in South India. Journal of Development Economics 99 (2): 428–438.Google Scholar
  8. Bardhan, Pranab K., Dilip Mookherjee, and Monica Parra Torrado. 2010. Impact of political reservations in West Bengal local governments on anti-poverty targeting. Journal of Globalization and Development 1 (1): Article 5.Google Scholar
  9. Basu, Amrita. 1994. Two faces of protest: Contrasting modes of women's activism in India. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  10. Beaman, Lori, Esther Duflo, Rohini Pande, and Petia Topalova. 2010. Political reservation and substantive representation: Evidence from Indian village councils, in India Policy Forum 2010–11, eds. Suman Bery, Barry Bosworth, and Arvind Panagariya, 159–191. Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  11. Benhabib, Seyla. 1994. Deliberative rationality and models of democratic legitimacy. Constellations 1: 26–52.Google Scholar
  12. Besley, Timothy, Rohini Pande, and Vijayendra Rao. 2005. Participatory democracy in action: Survey evidence from South India. Journal of the European Economic Association 3 (2–3): 648–657.Google Scholar
  13. Besley, Timothy, Rohini Pandey, Lupin Rahman, and Vijayendra Rao. 2004. The politics of public good provision: Evidence from Indian local governments. Journal of the European Economic Association 2 (2–3): 416–426.Google Scholar
  14. Bohman, James. 1996. Public deliberation: Pluralism, complexity, and democracy. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Chatterjee, Partha. 1989. Colonialism, nationalism, and colonialized women: The contest in India. American Ethnologist 16: 622–633.Google Scholar
  16. Chattopadhyay, Raghabendra, and Esther Duflo. 2004. Women as policy makers: Evidence from a randomized policy experiment in India. Econometrica 72 (5): 1409–1443.Google Scholar
  17. Cohen, Joshua, and Joel Rogers. 1992. Secondary associations and democratic governance. Politics and Society 20 (4): 393–472.Google Scholar
  18. Curato, Nicole, John S. Dryzek, Selen A. Ercan, Carolyn M. Hendriks, and Simon Niemeyer. 2017. Twelve key findings in deliberative democracy research. Daedalus 146 (3): 28–38.Google Scholar
  19. Davidson, Thomas, and Paromita Sanyal. 2017. Associational participation and network expansion: Microcredit self-help groups and poor women's social ties in rural India. Social Forces 95 (4): 1695–1724.Google Scholar
  20. Deininger, Klaus, and Yanyan Liu. 2013. Economic and social impacts of an innovative self-help group model in India. World Development 43: 149–163.Google Scholar
  21. Delli Carpini, Michael X., Fay Lomax Cook, and Lawrence R. Jacobs. 2004. Public deliberation, discursive participation, and citizen engagement: A review of the empirical literature. Annual Review of Political Science 7: 315–344.Google Scholar
  22. Desai, Sonalde, and Lester Andrist. 2010. Gender scripts and age at marriage in India. Demography 47 (3): 667–687.Google Scholar
  23. Desai, Raj M., and Shareen Joshi. 2013. "Collective action and community development: Evidence from self-help groups in rural India." The World Bank.Google Scholar
  24. Dryzek, John S. 2000. Deliberative democracy and beyond: Liberals, critics, contestations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Edgell, Penny, Kathleen E. Hull, Kyle Green, and Daniel Winchester. 2016. Reasoning together through telling stories: How people talk about social controversies. Qualitative Sociology 39 (1): 1–26.Google Scholar
  26. Eliasoph, Nina. 1996. Making a fragile public: A talk-centered study of citizenship and power. Sociological Theory 14 (3): 262–289.Google Scholar
  27. Elster, Jon. 1996. Rationality and the emotions. Economic Journal 106 (438): 1386–1397.Google Scholar
  28. Feigenberg, Benjamin, Erica Field, and Rohini Pande. 2013. The economic returns to social interaction: Experimental evidence from microfinance. Review of Economic Studies 80 (4): 1459–1483.Google Scholar
  29. Fraser, Nancy. 1990. Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy. Social Text 25 (26): 56–80.Google Scholar
  30. Fung, Archon, Erik Olin Wright, and Rebecca Abers. 2003. Deepening democracy: Institutional innovations in empowered participatory governance. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  31. Gastil, John, and Peter Levine. 2005. The deliberative democracy handbook: Strategies for effective civic engagement in the twenty-first century. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  32. Gibson, Christopher. 2012. Making redistributive direct democracy matter: Development and women’s participation in the gram Sabhas of Kerala, India. American Sociological Review 77 (3): 409–434.Google Scholar
  33. Goodin, Robert E. Forthcoming. If deliberation is everything, maybe it’s nothing. In The oxford handbook of deliberative democracy, ed. Andre Bachtinger, John Dryzek, Jane Mansbridge, and Mark Warren. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Gutmann, Amy. 1998. Freedom of association. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis Thompson. 2004. Why deliberative democracy? Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Habermas, Jurgen. 1984. The theory of communicative action. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  37. He, Baogang, and Mark E. Warren. 2011. Authoritarian deliberation: The deliberative turn in Chinese political development. Perspectives on Politics 9 (02): 269–289.Google Scholar
  38. Heller, Patrick. 2000. Degrees of democracy: Some comparative lessons from India. World Politics 52 (4): 484–519.Google Scholar
  39. Heller, Patrick. 2009. Democratic deepening in India and South Africa. Journal of Asian and African Studies 44 (1): 123–149.Google Scholar
  40. Heller, Patrick. 2012. Democracy, participatory politics and development: Some comparative lessons from Brazil, India and South Africa. Polity 44 (4): 643–665.Google Scholar
  41. Heller, Patrick, and Vijayendra Rao. 2015. Deliberation and development: Rethinking the role of voice and collective action in unequal societies. World Bank Publications.Google Scholar
  42. Houtzager, Peter P., and Arnab Acharya. 2011. Associations, active citizenship, and the quality of democracy in Brazil and Mexico. Theory and Society 40 (1): 1–36.Google Scholar
  43. Isaac, T.M. Thomas, and Patrick Heller. 2003. Democracy and development: Decentralized planning in Kerala. In Deepening democracy: Institutional innovations in empowered participatory governance, ed. Archon Fung, Erik Olin Wright, and Rebecca Abers, 77–110. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  44. Karpowitz, Christopher F., Tali Mendelberg, and Lee Shaker. 2012. Gender inequality in deliberative participation. American Political Science Review 106 (3): 533–547.Google Scholar
  45. Khanna, Madhulika, Nishtha Kochhar, and Nethra Palaniswamy. 2015. A retrospective impact evaluation of the Tamil Nadu empowerment and poverty alleviation (Pudhu Vaazhvu) project. The Journal of Development Studies 51 (9): 1210–1223.Google Scholar
  46. Kurian, Lucyamma. 2010. The structure and functioning of Gram Sabhas: A study focused on the District of Kottayam. Unpublished dissertation. Mahatma Gandhi University. http://hdl.handle.net/10603/354
  47. Mansbridge, Jane. 1983. Beyond adversary democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  48. Mansbridge, Jane. 1990. Beyond self interest. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  49. Mansbridge, Jane. 1998. Feminism and democracy. In Feminism and politics, ed. Anne Phillips, 142–160. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Mansbridge, Jane. 1999. Everyday talk in the deliberative system. In Deliberative politics: Essays on democracy and disagreement, ed. Stephen Macedo, 211–240. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Mansbridge, Jane. 2015. A minimalist definition of deliberation. In Deliberation and development: Rethinking the role of voice and collective action in unequal societies, ed. Patrick Heller and Vijayendra Rao. Washington DC: World Bank Publications.Google Scholar
  52. Mansuri, Ghazala, and Vijayendra Rao. 2012. Localizing development: Does participation work? World Bank Publications.Google Scholar
  53. Mendelberg, Tali, Christopher F. Karpowitz, and Nicholas Goedert. 2014. Does descriptive representation facilitate women's distinctive voice? How gender composition and decision rules affect deliberation. American Journal of Political Science 58 (2): 291–306.Google Scholar
  54. Mouffe, Chantal. 1999. Deliberative democracy or agonistic pluralism? Social Research 66 (3): 745–758.Google Scholar
  55. Palaniswamy, Nethra, Ramya Parthasarathy, and Vijayendra Rao. 2019. Unheard voices: The challenge of inducing women’s civic speech. World Development 115:64–77.Google Scholar
  56. Parthasarathy, Ramya, Vijayendra Rao, and Nethra Palaniswamy. 2017. Deliberative inequality: a text-asdata study of Tamil Nadu's village assemblies. The World Bank.Google Scholar
  57. Polletta, Francesca, and John Lee. 2006. Is telling stories good for democracy? Rhetoric in public deliberation after 9/11. American Sociological Review 71: 699–723.Google Scholar
  58. Putnam, Robert D. 2000. Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Culture and politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  59. Rao, Vijayendra, and Paromita Sanyal. 2010. Dignity through discourse: Poverty and the culture of deliberation in Indian village democracies. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 629: 146–172.Google Scholar
  60. Ray, Raka. 1999. Fields of protest: Women’s movement in India. University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  61. Sanders, Lynn M. 1997. Against deliberation. Political Theory 25: 347–376.Google Scholar
  62. Sanyal, Paromita. 2009. From credit to collective action: The role of microfinance in promoting women’s social capital and normative influence. American Sociological Review 74 (4): 529–550.Google Scholar
  63. Sanyal, Paromita. 2014. Credit to capabilities: A sociological study of microcredit groups in India. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Sanyal, Paromita. 2015a. The role of emotions in deliberative development. In Deliberation and development: Rethinking the role of voice and collective action in unequal societies, ed. Patrick Heller and Vijayendra Rao, 167–191. Washington DC: World Bank Group.Google Scholar
  65. Sanyal, Paromita. 2015b. Group-based microcredit & emergent inequality in social capital: Why socio-religious composition matters. Qualitative Sociology 38 (2): 103–137.Google Scholar
  66. Sanyal, Paromita, and Vijayendra Rao. 2019. Oral democracy: Deliberation in Indian village assemblies. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Sen, Amartya. 1993. Capability and well-being. In The quality of life, eds. Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen. Oxford Scholarship Online.Google Scholar
  68. Steenbergen, Marco R., André Bächtiger, Markus Spörndli, and Jürg Steiner. 2003. Measuring political deliberation: A discourse quality index. Comparative European Politics 1 (1): 21–48 heller.Google Scholar
  69. Varshney, Ashutosh. 2000. Is India becoming more democratic? The Journal of Asian Studies 59: 3–25.Google Scholar
  70. Verba, Sidney, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Henry E. Brady. 1995. Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Young, Iris Marion. 2000. Inclusion and democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paromita Sanyal
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vijayendra Rao
    • 2
  • Umang Prabhakar
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Development Research Group, The World BankWashingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations