Corruption as power: Caste and the political imagination of the postcolonial state

by Jeffrey Witsoe

In this article, I examine the ways in which a politics of caste empowerment that became central to democratic politics in much of north India in the early 1990s altered the ways in which the state was popularly imagined. Many people began to perceive state institutions as inherently corrupt sources of political patronage that, having long served to perpetuate upper-caste dominance, could now be used in the same way by a new class of political leaders to empower lower-caste groups. Within this context, corruption was tolerated, sometimes even celebrated, as a means to lower-caste empowerment.