Red Tape presents a major new theory of the state developed by the renowned anthropologist Akhil Gupta. Seeking to understand the chronic and widespread poverty in India, the world's fourth largest economy, Gupta conceives of the relation between the state in India and the poor as one of structural violence. Every year this violence kills between two and three million people, especially women and girls, and lower-caste and indigenous peoples. Yet India's poor are not disenfranchised; they actively participate in the democratic project. Nor is the state indifferent to the plight of the poor; it sponsors many poverty amelioration programs.
Gupta conducted ethnographic research among officials charged with coordinating development programs in rural Uttar Pradesh. Drawing on that research, he offers insightful analyses of corruption; the significance of writing and written records; and governmentality, or the expansion of bureaucracies. Those analyses underlie his argument that care is arbitrary in its consequences, and that arbitrariness is systematically produced by the very mechanisms that are meant to ameliorate social suffering. What must be explained is not only why government programs aimed at providing nutrition, employment, housing, healthcare, and education to poor people do not succeed in their objectives, but also why, when they do succeed, they do so unevenly and erratically.
"This long-awaited book is a masterful achievement, which offers a close look at the culture of bureaucracy in India and through this lens, casts new light on structural violence, liberalization and the paradox of misery in the midst of explosive economic growth. Akhil Gupta's sensitive analysis of the everyday practices of writing, recording, filing and reporting at every level of the Indian state joins a rich literature on the politics of inscription and marks a brilliant new benchmark for political anthropology in India and beyond." Arjun Appadurai, author of Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger "Why has the post-colonial Indian state seemed so incapable of improving the life chances of millions of the country's poor? Rather than seeing failure residing in policy or neglect - the Indian state after all champions participatory democracy - Akhil Gupta's brilliant book Red Tape argues that the structural violence inherent in the state operates as a form of bio-power in which normal bureaucratic procedures depoliticize the killing of the poor - by his account perhaps 2 million annually. Whether exploring corruption, literacy, or population policy, Gupta provides an utterly original account of the deadly operations of state power associated with the ascendancy of new industrial classes and of neoliberal practice in contemporary India. A tour de force." Michael Watts, author of Silent Violence: Food, Famine and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria
Series: John Hope Franklin Center Book
Number Of Pages: 400
Published: 17th July 2012
Publisher: Duke University Press
Dimensions (cm): 23.6 x 15.5 x 3.3
Weight (kg): 0.703