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Migrants and Machines: How Political Networks Emerge in Urbanizing India

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Bush House South East Wing 2.03

30 Aldwych

London

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A seminar about party machines in India

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About the Talk:

What are the political consequences of rapid urbanization across the global south? We argue one consequence has been the rapid formation of political machines, which have been studied in cities ranging from Buenos Aires to Accra to Chicago. Yet we still lack a systematic understanding of how party machines form, and how these formative processes affect how they function. Migrants and Machines seeks to fill this gap. We argue that machine organizations take shape through interlocking processes of competitive selection among three levels of actors: migrant voters (or clients), intermediaries (brokers), and politicians (patrons). We document these processes within the proliferating migrant slums of India’s ballooning cities. We draw on a wealth of original data, including a combined two years of ethnographic fieldwork, surveys and survey experiments conducted with 2,199 slum residents, 629 slum brokers, and 343 local city patrons. We outline how a focus on competitive selection generates an array of insights on the agency of migrants in shaping the machines that govern them, the motivations of brokers in joining machines, and the relative marginality of ethnicity in structuring urban politics. Such insights, in turn, challenge conventional assumptions of representation, accountability, and responsiveness within machine politics, and the political consequences of urbanization across the Global South.

About the Speaker:

Tariq Thachil is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University. His research focuses on political parties and political behavior, social movements, and ethnic politics, with a regional focus on South Asia.

His first book examines how elite parties can use social services to win mass support, through a study of Hindu nationalism in India, and was published by Cambridge University Press (Studies in Comparative Politics) in 2014. This project has won numerous awards, including the 2015 Gregory Luebbert Award for best book in comparative politics, the 2015 Leon Epstein Award for best book on political parties, and 2010 Gabriel Almond Award for best dissertation in comparative politics, all from the American Political Science Association. It also won the 2010 Sardar Patel Prize for best dissertation on modern India in the humanities and social sciences.

His current research focuses on the political consequences of urbanization, and draws on extensive qualitative and quantitative research among poor migrants in Indian cities. An article from this project, coauthored with Adam Auerbach, received the 2018 Heinz I. Eulau Award for the best article published in the American Political Science Review in the previous calendar year.

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Bush House South East Wing 2.03

30 Aldwych

London

United Kingdom

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