ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

11 – Rethinking governmentality: Sovereign agency beyond the state in South Asia

Whilst notions and practices of sovereignty in South Asia have attracted the attention of many a scholar, research has focused almost entirely on the constitution, assertion, legitimation and contestation of state power.

Convenors

Sanjay Srivastava - SOAS University of London, Anthropology and Sociology, London, United Kingdom
Filippo Osella - University of Sussex, Anthropology, Brighton, United Kingdom

Long Abstract

Whilst notions and practices of sovereignty in South Asia have attracted the attention of many a scholar, research has focused almost entirely on the constitution, assertion, legitimation and contestation of state power.  In this panel we move away from a state-centred understandings of sovereignty, to explore instead imaginaries and practices of everyday sovereign agency as the latent or actual deployment of (immanent or transcendent) power over a particular constituency, legitimated by reference to various discursive or social practices. By focusing on expressions of sovereign agency we seek to engage with a heterogenous body of imaginaries and practices through which variously located (human and non-human) social actors—from state and non-state actors, to market forces, religious bodies and deities, or individuals—seek to achieve and legitimise what they want or desire. Moreover, not only we are interested in understanding both the specificities of and overlaps between modalities of sovereign agency, but we also seek to identify novel meanings, values and practices which constitute emergent forms of sovereign action.

we seek to explore sovereign agency in the context of:

  1. Ritual practices, religious organisations and their infrastructures.
  2. Consultocracies: Global consultancy companies and their influence on state and non-state mechanisms and apparatuses.
  3. Criminality, criminal networks and their modalities of governance.
  4. Subaltern sub-states, such as regional, kinship, professional networks which produce and legitimise modalities of governance.
  5. Elite sub-states, such middle class ‘residents’ welfare associations’, gated communities, market actors and so on, which might work alongside or in antagonism to state sovereignty.