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Beyond citizenship

Adivasi and Dalit political pathways in India

Nicolas Jaoul

Does the dominant, statist conception of citizenship offer a satisfying framework to study the politicization of subaltern classes? This dialectical exploration of the political movements that emerge from the suppressed margins of Indian society questions their relationship to the state and its outcomes from the point of view of emancipation. As this special section shows, political ethnographers of “insurgent citizenship” among Dalits and Adivasis offer a view from below. The articles illustrate the way political subjectivities are being produced on the ground by confronting, negotiating, but also exceeding the state and its policed frameworks.

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Contending with school reform

Neoliberal restructuring, racial politics, and resistance in post-Katrina New Orleans

Mathilde Lind Gustavussen

This article presents a study of state-imposed neoliberal education reform and resistance in post-Katrina New Orleans. In Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, the city’s school system was dramatically reformed with most of its public schools replaced by privately administered “charter schools.” The article examines the social contradictions created by this reform and characterizes how the city’s education activists articulate their resistance to education privatization. Situating the reform within New Orleans’s post-Katrina neoliberal reconfiguration, it analyzes how simultaneous processes of education privatization and racial dispossession have made the reform lack popular legitimacy. The article concludes by considering how the neoliberal policies implemented after the storm were conditioned by race, arguing that racial politics should be considered fundamental, rather than adjacent, to the study of neoliberalization in US cities.

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“Real, practical emancipation”?

Subaltern politics and insurgent citizenship in contemporary India

Alf Gunvald Nilsen

Th is article explores the articulations of citizenship in subaltern politics in contemporary India. Departing from Karl Marx’s acknowledgment that, despite its limitations, political orders founded on the modern democratic conception of citizenship had propelled “real, practical emancipation,” I argue that citizenship has to be understood as simultaneously enabling and constraining radical political projects and popular social movements. I flesh out this argument through a detailed analysis of Adivasi mobilization in western Madhya Pradesh, India. My analysis shows how the Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, a local social movement in the region, democratized local state-society relations by appropriating basic democratic idioms and turning these against local state personnel and the violent extortion they engaged in. Drawing on James Holston’s work on “insurgent citizenship,” I argue that claims making around such democratic idioms inflected citizenship with new and potentially emancipatory meanings centered on local sovereignty and self-rule. I then detail how this mobilization provoked a substantial coercive backlash from the state and discuss the lessons that can be gleaned from this trajectory in terms of the possibilities and limitations that citizenship offers to progressive popular politics in India today.