ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Majoritarian nationalisms and democratic backsliding in South Asia.


Adeney Katharine - University of Nottingham, School of Politics and IR, Nottingham, United Kingdom


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


 Our paper reviews the rise of majority nationalism globally and links this to parallel debates on the rise of populism and the process of democratic backsliding, which some authors have also linked to the (crisis of) capitalism and the unfulfilled promise of economic globalization. It will identify similarities with and differences to the ‘Western’ interpretations and manifestations of majority nationalism, e.g., populism and populist leaders are not new phenomena in South Asia. Furthermore, in India, the rise of majoritarianism has also coincided with a deepening of the democratic base linked to the incorporation of non-dominant caste groups in the political process and the vernacularization of the media. At the same time, majoritarianism has challenged the liberal attributes of democracy across the subcontinent; it has been used to cut back civil liberties, such as limiting the freedom of expression or association and to restrict citizen access to alternative sources of information. By framing opposition to majoritarian views as ‘anti-national’ in all three countries it has also sought to delegitimise the voice of political opposition. Therefore, the entrenchment of majoritarian nationalism has had important implications for the working and health of democracy in the subcontinent. Our paper will identify channels which have been used to diffuse majority nationalism e.g., social media and the influence of the Diaspora.