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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Democracy beyond Elections: Citizen Claim-Making in Rural India

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Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner
Boston College

Date: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Time: 12:00-1:15 PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road


Abstract: How do citizens of the world’s largest democracy make claims on the state? Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner will explore the processes through which rural citizens of India seek to secure public services from the state. Her research helps shed light on the understanding of distributive politics (who gets what from the state) and democratic practice (who participates and how). Drawing on fieldwork in the state of Rajasthan, she documents various claim-making practices. Socioeconomic status or caste category can not alone explain why different groups differ in how they make claims on the state. Kruks-Wisner argues, rather, that claim-making practice is shaped by the degree to which a person is exposed to people and settings across social and spatial cleavages. Expanded social and economic opportunities go together with the expanded knowledge necessary for citizen-state engagement, increasing both the likelihood and breadth of claim-making practice.

Kruks-Wisner Head Shot

Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner is an assistant professor of political science at Boston College. Her research focuses on issues of political participation, local governance, and social welfare in developing countries, with an emphasis on South Asian and Indian politics. Her current book manuscript, Claiming the State: Citizens’ Mobility & Demand for Public Services in Rural India, asks whether and how marginalized citizens of the world’s largest democracy make claims on the state for essential public services. She earned her doctorate in Political Science and a Masters in International Development Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology from Swarthmore College. Prior to joining BC, she was an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies at Harvard University.

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In The News


The 16th general election since India's independence is occuring from April 7 to May 12 - a seven phase process where 815 million people are eligible to vote in the world's largest democracy. This Economist article explores the massive electoral process in India, and how it remains successful despite the considerable challenges present. On February 13, 12:00 p.m., BC professor Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner spoke about  "Citizen Claim-Making in Rural India” at the Boisi Center.

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The Economist profiles the frontrunner in India's upcoming election for prime minister, Nerendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist. This past February at the Boisi Center, Boston College political science profesor Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner presented on another aspect of India's democracy, citizen claim-making. She tried to isolate those variables that could predict this phenomenon, which is key to a well-functioning democracy in India.


photo of Chhattisgarh Elections: Polling booth attacked

On January 8, Professor Kruks-Wisner wrote an op-ed for the Indian Express on growing civic participation in rural India. On Thursday, February 13th, at 12:00PM the Boisi Center will host Professor Kruks-Wisner to speak on Democracy Beyond Elections: Citizen Claim-Making in Rural India.


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On January 23, the New York Times reported that a West Bengali Village Council ordered the gang rape of a young woman for violating village marriage codes. As stories of the rape crisis in India become increasingly common, we are forced to question what power, if any, do citizens have in making claims on their state? On February 13, 12:00 p.m., BC professor Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner spoke about  "Citizen Claim-Making in Rural India” at the Boisi Center.