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Title: The dramaturgy of ritual performances in Indian parliamentary debates
Author: Balasubramaniam, Bairavee
ISNI:       0000 0004 2735 7317
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2013
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The content, style and form of MPs' performances on the floor of both Houses of the Indian Parliament has undergone dramatic change within the last decade. For example, 97% of the productive hours of the Winter (Nov-Dec) 2010 Session were lost due to intense disruption by MPs across the political spectrum seeking to stall the House. Moreover, an increasing number of Bills are debated for less than an hour, if at all, on the floor of Parliament - raising the conceptual question of whether legislation can still be considered one of parliament's key functions in India. These changes require, at the very least, an attempt to re-conceptualize the meaning and significance attributed to various tropes of parliamentary performances, including those which seemingly subvert all notions of parliamentary procedure, decorum and etiquette. In my thesis, I adopt a novel interdisciplinary analytical framework, drawing upon performance studies, microsociological dramaturgy of face-to-face interaction, interpretations of procedural invocations, rhetorical political analysis and the study of political rituals. My primary research question was whether the concept of ritual could usefully be mapped onto performances of debates in the Indian parliamentary context. I then asked what the significance of the absence or presence of rituals in this context would mean. Two case were studies selected for this analysis, namely the Prevention of Terrorism Act (2001- 2004) and the Women's Reservation Bill (1996-2011), informed by a more general ethnography of the Indian Parliament undertaken for this research. Both studies were chosen using the logic of 'extreme case study selection' as these performances exhibit extreme forms of dramaturgical violence, protest and polarized rhetoric that is increasingly reflective of the everyday performances of the Indian Parliament. In my research, I have adopted an interpretivist-constructivist approach to the ethnographic method and have conducted two tranches of field research in New Delhi for that purpose. My analysis demonstrates the presence of a diverse range of rituals of debate being performed simultaneously during the legislative process within the Indian Parliament, namely, procedural rituals, interpersonal rituals and disruptive rituals. These findings corroborate the broader argument that the study of rituals are integral to an understanding of parliamentary processes. Moreover, instead of dismissing certain aspects of performance (e.g. physical obstruction of debate) as being symptomatic of what many scholars have called the 'decline of parliament', my findings support the cause for re-signifying, or re-reading parliamentary disruption as supporting, rather than diminishing, the processes of political representation and widening the spectrum of forms of political action considered as legitimate modes of political deliberation. The evolution of these newer, sometimes disruptive, forms of representative ritual can be read into wider processes of vernacularization and mediatization currently transforming the ethos, identity and modus operandi of the Indian Parliament.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: JQ Political institutions (Asia, Africa, Australia, Pacific Area, etc.)