Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

“I serve therefore I am”: Youth and Generative Politics in India

  • Craig Jeffrey (a1) and Jane Dyson (a2)

This paper uses qualitative research in Uttarakhand, India to highlight the vitality of civil society and the involvement of young people in everyday “civic” politics. Much recent academic literature emphasizes the ubiquity of narrowly self-interested patronage politics in South Asia, Africa, and Latin America, as captured in the saying sometimes attributed to politicians in Cameroon: “I graze therefore I am.” But in specific moments or conjunctures, more “civic” forms of politics come to light, perhaps especially among youth. Building on intensive, qualitative field research, we show that a new generation of educated, underemployed youth in the village of Bemni serve their community in key ways. They also make strong arguments about the nature of “politics” and how it might be re-imagined as “generative”—concerned with building resources—rather than “allocative”—a zero-sum game of competition for power. We draw attention to the potentials of this practice and discourse of politics as well as its limits, particularly that it is dominated by young men and tends to reproduce caste and gender inequalities. We also call for more concerted study of youth community activism in contexts of predatory clientelism.

Corresponding author
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

A. Bayat 2013a. The Arab Spring and Its Surprises. Development and Change 44, 3: 587601.

K. Biekart and A. Fowler . 2013. Transforming Activisms 2010 + : Exploring Ways and Waves. Development and Change 44, 3: 527–46.

E. Castañeda 2012. The Indignados of Spain: A Precedent to Occupy Wall Street. Social Movement Studies 11, 3–4: 309–19.

S. Chant and G. A. Jones . 2005. Youth, Gender and Livelihoods in West Africa: Perspectives from Ghana and The Gambia. Children's Geographies 3, 2: 185–99.

S. Corbridge , G. Williams , M. Srivastava , and R. Véron . 2005. Seeing the State: Governance and Governmentality in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

S. Daly 2010. Young Women as Activists in Contemporary Egypt: Anxiety, Leadership, and the Next Generation. Journal of Middle East Women's Studies 6, 2: 5985.

P. De Vries 2002. Vanishing Mediators: Enjoyment as a Political Factor in Western Mexico. American Ethnologist 29, 4: 901–27.

M. Diouf 1996. Urban Youth and Senegalese Politics: Dakar 1988–1994. Public Culture 8, 2: 225–49.

J. Dyson 2008. Harvesting Identities: Youth, Work and Gender in the Indian Himalayas. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 98, 1: 160–79.

J. Dyson 2010. Friendship in Practice: Girls’ Work in the Indian Himalayas. American Ethnologist 37, 3: 472–98.

J. Dyson 2014. Working Childhoods: Youth, Agency and the Environment in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

B. Flyvbjerg 2006. Five Misunderstandings about Case-Study Research. Qualitative Inquiry 12, 2: 219–45.

J. A. Fox 2007. Accountability Politics: Power and Voice in Rural Mexico. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

R. Fredericks 2014. “The old man is dead”: Hip Hop and the Arts of Citizenship of Senegalese Youth. Antipode 46, 1: 130–48.

M. Glasius and G. Pleyers . 2013. The Global Moment of 2011: Democracy, Social Justice and Dignity. Development and Change 44, 3: 547–67.

T. B. Hansen 1996. Recuperating Masculinity: Hindu Nationalism, Violence, and the Exorcism of the Muslim ‘Other.’ Critique of Anthropology 16, 22: 137–72.

C. Jeffrey 2012. Geographies of Children and Youth II: Global Youth Agency. Progress in Human Geography 36, 2: 245–53.

D. Johnson-Hanks , 2002. On the Limits of Life Stages in Ethnography: Towards a Theory of Vital Conjunctures. American Anthropologist 104, 3: 865–80.

J. L. Jones 2010. ‘Nothing is straight in Zimbabwe’: The Rise of the Kukiya-Kiya Economy 2000–2008. Journal of Southern African Studies 36, 2: 285–99.

J. Kett 1971. Adolescence and Youth in Nineteenth-Century America. Journal of Interdisciplinary History 2, 2: 283–98.

R. A. Lukose 2009. Liberalization's Children: Gender, Youth, and Consumer Citizenship in Globalizing India. Durham: Duke University Press.

M. Manilov 2013. Occupy at One Year: Growing the Roots of a Movement. Sociological Quarterly 54, 2: 206–13.

E. Mawdsley 1997. Non-Successionalist Regionalism in India: The Uttarakhand Separate State Movement. Environment and Planning, A 29, 12: 2217–35.

S. Newell 2012. The Modernity Bluff: Crime, Consumption, and Citizenship in Côte d'Ivoire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

R.T.E. Orock 2013. Manyu Youths, Belonging and the Antinomies of Patrimonial Elite Politics in Contemporary Cameroon. Cultural Dynamics 25, 3: 269–90.

J. Pearce 2013. Power and the Twenty-First Century Activist: From the Neighbourhood to the Square. Development and Change 44, 3: 639–63.

D. Pratten 2006. The Politics of Vigilance in Southeastern Nigeria. Development and Change 37, 4: 707–34.

M. Razsa and A. Kurnik . 2012. The Occupy Movement in Žižek's Hometown: Direct Democracy and a Politics of Becoming. American Ethnologist 39, 2: 238–58.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 4
Total number of PDF views: 36 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 169 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 29th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.