ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The Personal is Political: Transformation of Kinship Networks into Local State Government


Herbert Sruthi - Univeristy of Edinburgh, Law, Edinburgh, United Kingdom


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


This paper based on field work in Kerala, a South Indian state, illustrates the operation of region-specific caste and gender roles that shape the working of local state government bodies. Through the journeys of nine men and women from various caste groups who are/have been ward-level functionaries of the local state government bodies, I look at the intersections between people’s social locations and their role in public politics. From their narratives, I illustrate the seamlessness with which the personal travels into the political and gets embedded into local government, thus helping to relocate state power as experienced by individuals at the most local level in networks and practices shaped by the social structure. Indeed, the personal appears to transform into the power of the local state quite naturally, un-problematically. I argue that what is transformed and embedded into state power is caste and the ensuing caste, class and gender dynamics.