'Oral Democracy': Governance with Unequal Voices


What happens to “deliberative democracy” in contexts of social inequalities? What happens to citizens who are allowed a civic space to exercise voice in governance? What happens to the state as it invites citizens to participate in governance? These questions are fundamental to understanding how political institutions operate in real-world social contexts, transforming citizens and being transformed by them. 

‘Oral Democracy: Deliberation in Indian Village Assemblies (Sanyal and Rao 2018, Cambridge University Press)’ tackles these questions by studying public discussions in India’s village assemblies (gram sabha). These assemblies are grassroots institutions of participatory democracy and the largest deliberative institution in human history. Paromita Sanyal will present a talk featuring the unique “talk-centered” large-N qualitative analysis of three hundred Indian village assemblies from four South Indian states. The presentation will showcase the typology of citizens’ performances and state enactments across the four states, offering a new analytical vantage into state-citizen interactions. It will introduce the concepts of “oral competence” and “oral democracy” to help understand deliberative systems in low and middle-income countries and touch upon the role of state policy and literacy in promoting participatory governance.

Practical information

This online seminar took place on Thursday 10 December.