media, information, the contemporary

‘The Question is Democracy’ – A Seminar in Honor of Rajni Kothari

For Rajni Kothari, one of the most influential political analysts of postcolonial India, the idea of democracy remained central to his intellectual concerns and to his political engagements as an intellectual-activist. He did not offer any fixed meaning of democracy and instead attempted to capture those context-specific ideas and practices, which are often described as democracy. In his The State against Democracy he expresses several of his ideas and concerns on democracy. Things have changed drastically since the publication of the book. Increasingly, ‘democracy’ gets defined almost on daily basis by various actors and at multiple levels. The advent of new technologies, phenomenal expansion of mass media and civil society organizations, unprecedented proliferation of non party political formations, rapid politicization of society, uses of innovative modes of political and cultural campaigns and mobilization of citizenry have not only transformed the political landscape but also have changed the coordinates and ecology of democracy. This analytical openness provokes us to unpack our meanings and understandings of democracy because for him as well for us: the question is democracy.

There are seven rubrics around which we hope to explore the question of democracy in India today.

  • Constitutions, Institutions, Organizations
  • Censorship, Bans, Vetoes
  • Democracy, Market, Technology
  • Dissent, Disputes, Violence
  • Campaigns, Movements, Non-party political formations
  • Rights, Dignity, Livelihood
  • Corporations, Growth, Distribution

The seminar is planned for mid March 2016. We plan to have seven sessions around the above rubrics. Each session will have 2-3 papers of about 5000-7000 words which will if found suitable result in an edited volume. We invite prospective paper givers to send us a 500-600 word abstract of the presentation by 30th November 2015, indicating rubric under which it could be considered so that we can send list of those accepted by 14th December 2015. CSDS will meet travel (2nd AC train fare) and stay expenses. The seminar will be at CSDS Delhi.

The convener of the Seminar is Peter Ronald deSouza. Abstracts should be sent to

A detailed note setting out the themes and questions is available at our website: