This article examines the ways in which decentralized welfare provision is utilized by local state officials, particularly mayors, to (re)create local belonging along notions of deservingness. Comparing the organization of three forms of benefits in two villages, we demonstrate that local practices of welfare embody different state images that are created and negotiated both through the regulatory power of local state actors and through their various interactions and embeddedness in local social relations. Our empirical material highlights that the specificities of positions held by elected local officials and their accorded responsibilities, in addition to the position of their locality in the broader socio-spatial landscape of the country, are of great importance. All these largely influence the ways in which state images are formed and materialize in redistributive practice.
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