ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

22 – The present democratic crisis in South Asia: causes, distinctive elements and historical precedents

The South Asian region, once emblematic of the bold experiment of democracy in the postcolonial world, has witnessed sustained democratic backsliding in recent years. Between 2010 and 2021 the democracy scores of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh declined dramatically. Sri Lanka entered a phase of democratic involution since 2019, culminating with the recent economic and political instability.

Convenors

Michelguglielmo Torri - University of Turin
Lipika Kamra - Queen Mary University of London
Diego Maiorano - University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’
Amogh Dhar Sharma - University of Oxford

Long Abstract

The South Asian region, once emblematic of the bold experiment of democracy in the postcolonial world, has witnessed sustained democratic backsliding in recent years. Between 2010 and 2021 the democracy scores of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh declined dramatically. Sri Lanka entered a phase of democratic involution since 2019, culminating with the recent economic and political instability.  Particularly worrying has been the democratic erosion in India, once known as the world’s largest democracy.

This panel aims to bring together scholars who analyze the ongoing democratic involution in South Asian countries through a multi-disciplinary, multi-method, and multi-scalar perspective. In particular, we hope to bridge the divide between macro-level and micro-levels theories of democratic crises that are extant in the academic literature. At the macro-level, we encourage scholars to consider the socio-economic and cultural roots and/or the crucial role played by popular authoritarian leaders in manipulating, eroding and corrupting democratic institutions. At the micro-level, papers could focus on political subjectivities of voters and politicians, everyday political practices, and everyday working of institutions and practices that sustain democracy/authoritarianism. We also encourage scholars to reflect on how the current phase of democratic crisis differs from (or has parallels with) the previous iterations of such crises, such as ‘The Emergency’ period in India (1975-77), the erstwhile military coups in Pakistan (1958, 1977, 1999), authoritarian regimes in Bangladesh (1975-1981, 1982-1990) or civil wars in Nepal (1996-2006) and Sri Lanka (1983-2009)