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CSPO 1090A - Contemporary Indian Politics

Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English


The course requires no prerequisite knowledge about South Asia, but does imply a willingness to read the suggested material covering the various fields of political science, geography, sociology, history and economy. Students will be encouraged to interact with both lecturer and participate as much as possible during the class. In order to have a sense of India's current affairs and debates, the frequent reading of newspapers and reviews is recommended. These include: The Indian Express; The Hindu; Economic and Political Weekly (“EPW”); Frontline; Seminar; Caravan, The Open Magazine. Several academic journals are worth mentioning: India Review; Contemporary South Asia; SAMAJ; Indian Survey; Studies in Indian Politics etc.

Course Description

This course aims at providing students with an introductory understanding of India's remarkable political and social transformations since its independence in 1947. The country's 70 year-journey amidst adverse economic conditions has indeed constituted a unique moment in the adventure of a political idea: democracy. The course will interrogate India's democratic resilience as well as its secular and federal character while introducing some of the developments affecting it: the rise of Hindu nationalism, the practice of ‘muscle' politics, the democratic disbelief of wealthy Indians and the disarray of India's weaker sections – peasants, tribals, former untouchables etc. The course will attempt to make sense of the main cleavages of India's society, whether social, religious, linguistic or gender-based. Through sustained interactions with the students, both instructors will highlight important historical milestones, questioning the long-lasting heritage of colonialism, the legacy and demise of India's ruling party, the rise to power of lower castes, the consequences of economic liberalisation, the progressive urbanisation of the country, the emergence of a young middle class and the trajectory of marginalisation of Muslim and Christian communities. While looking at how these deep rooted social realities shape the everyday life of Indians the course will also examine how the state engages with such issues, both at national and subnational levels. Such endeavour will require contextualizing India's public policy through providing a substantial account of challenges before it, ranging from developmental issues (crony capitalism, environmental degradations, raising inequalities) to secessionist and neighbouring security threats. We will see how social obstacles such as youth unemployment hampers the rising prospects of the world fastest-growing major economy. The course will be divided into three distinct sections. Classes 1-4 will introduce India's democratic foundations. They will enable the students to see how the study of a new geographical space can be problematised, and how India can help us renew the understanding we have of societies' core notions. The second section (classes 5-7) will introduce the students to some of the long-lasting internal and external challenges India's democracy has been confronted with since independence. Keeping these challenges in mind, classes 8-11 will focus more specifically on the profound structural transformations of India's democracy since 1990s, while putting and emphasis on the contentions raised by some sections of civil society at grassroots levels – and resulting in the triggering of vocal and longstanding social movements.


  • HOUDOY, Xavier (PhD student)
  • MARTELLI, Jean-Thomas (PhD Student)

Pedagogical format

At the end of the course: 1°) Students will have solid introductory knowledge of India's political and social realities. Students will have to read carefully one compulsory text (~10-30 pages) per session. A reader will be made available to the students at the beginning of the semester. 2°) Students will be able to frame a research question, identify the relevant literature in order to produce an academically sound research paper. 3°) Students will be able to use India as a case study in order to assess the validity and the limits of fundamental academic concepts of political science, political geography and political sociology.

Course validation

To validate the course, each student will be evaluated on: 1°) A 10 minutes presentation that a group of two students is expected to make, starting from the third class. The presentation will include a brief press review on the topic approached in one of the sessions and is expected to formulate a research question. (40 percent of the final grade) 2°) Class attendance, participation and discussion of the readings. Students will be encouraged to interact with both lecturers and participate as much as possible during the class. (20 percent) 3°) A written essay (4,000-6,000 words). Students will answer the research question outlined in the presentation; the topic will be chosen with the advice and consent of the lecturers. (40 percent)

Required reading

Ramachandra Guha, India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy, 2007

Additional required reading

  • Khilnani, Sunil, The Idea of India (New York, Farrah Sraus Giroux, 1999)
  • Niraja, Gopal (ed.), Democracy in India (Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2001)
  • Jenkins, Rob Democratic Politics and Economic Reform in India (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999)
  • Ganguly, Sumit et al., The state of India's Democracy (Baltimore and Washington, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007)
  • Drèze, Jean and Sen, Amartya, An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions (New Delhi: Princeton University Press, 2013)