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Sons of Krishna and sons of Bolivar

Charismatic kinship and leadership across India and Venezuela

Lucia Michelutti

This article uses the analytical tool of divine kinship to explore political charisma across Indian and Venezuelan democratic social revolutions. In both contexts, charismatic elected political leaders build their image of strength and action on a wide repertoire of cultural and religious resources that are legitimated by divine kinship. The juxtaposition of the Indian and Venezuelan political ethnographies shows how charismatic kinship inflects lived understandings of popular sovereignty and opens up spaces for holding personality politics accountable.

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The politics of entitlement

Affirmative action and strategic voting in Uttar Pradesh, India

Lucia Michelutti and Oliver Heath

This article focuses on the struggles and shifting political strategies of two major political players in northern India: the Yadavs (a low-to-middle ranking pastoral agricultural caste) and the dalits (former untouchables, which in the region mainly come from the Chamar caste) and their political parties, the Samaj wadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, respectively. Both communities (and political parties) have strongly benefited from affirmative action policies over the last three decades. We argue that that these affirmative action policies, and the political rhetoric that has tended to accompany them, have been “vernacularized“ in local sociocultural structures, which in turn has helped to produce folk theories of democracy and social justice that are directly and indirectly legitimizing conflict, and producing new forms of caste-based strategic voting, based on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

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From the mouth of God

Divine kinship and popular democratic politics

Alice Forbess and Lucia Michelutti

This article proposes “divine kinship” as an analytical tool with which to explore the relation between the divine, “the people”, and their political leaders and advance an ethnographically led comparative anthropology of democracy. More specifically, using the political ethnographies of five localities—North India, Venezuela, Montenegro, Russia, and Nepal—we discuss lived understandings of popular sovereignty, electoral representation, and political hope. We argue that charismatic kinship is crucial to understanding the processes by which political leaders and elected representatives become the embodiment of “the people”, and highlight the processes through which “ordinary people” are transformed into “extraordinary people” with royal/divine/democratic qualities.