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Title: Symbolic encounters : identity, performativity and democratic subjectivity in contemporary India
Author: Muraleedharan, Sruthi
ISNI:       0000 0004 7960 6397
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis focuses on symbolic politics as 'meaning-making' and a 'coconstitutive' form of representation. It seeks to analyze subject formation in the context of symbolic political mobilizations in contemporary India. By symbolic politics, I mean political rituals, cultural symbols, commemorative memorials and spectacular performances. Through deploying Bourdieusian idea of symbolic power and Butler's framework of performativity and subject formation, this thesis contributes to rethinking of the relationship between symbolic politics and subject formation. It critically engages two dominant frameworks for the study of the politics of symbolism and the nature of political subjectivities-elite manipulation, where the subjectivities of the participants are assumed to be contrived, and the dismissal of performative politics as not democratically substantial because of the passionate subjectivities involved. I demonstrate this based on the study of three contemporary symbolic mobilizations - Modi's 2014 election campaign around the figure of Vikaspurush, Mayawati's construction of B.R. Ambedkar Parivartan Sthal and the Anna Hazare- Kejriwal led Anti-Corruption movement in India. By combining field-work based on interpretive and visual ethnography, this thesis makes the following three claims. First, it argues that people's participation in symbolic mobilization plays a crucial role in political subject formation as claim making subjects whose identities are constituted through their struggles for rights and recognition. Second, claim-making outside of institutional spaces, the negotiation between legal and cultural citizenship may signal the emergence of democratic subjectivities, even as non-democratic forms of political mobilization are also present. Third, the thesis challenges the contrast between symbolic and material politics. Symbolic politics by making spatial assertions activates time and space and thus has an equally significant material dimension to it. This work illustrates that far from being inconsequential; the symbolic political field operates as a space wherein political subjectivities are constituted through the consolidation of citizen-subjects. However, the field of contention and mobilisation in symbolic politics could also signal a limitation in performative political action as it can also constitute co-opted subjects, limit democratic subjectivities and render some subjects invisible.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral