March 2024

4:00 PM - 5:30 PM IST

Room 207, School of Arts and Sciences
Central Campus
Ahmedabad University


How Clientelism Varies: Informal Politics in India and Indonesia

Seminar and Lecture Series
Ward Berenschot | Speaker at Ahmedabad University

Ward Berenschot

Professor in Comparative Political Anthropology
University of Amsterdam
Senior Researcher
KITLV Leiden

Clientelistic vote mobilisation is a prominent electoral strategy in many of the world’s democracies and electoral authoritarian regimes. Yet the comparative study of this practice, which involves exchanging personal favours for electoral support, remains underdeveloped, as the comparative study of contemporary democracies focuses largely on formal dimensions of politics. Addressing this challenge, I will argue in this presentation that clientelistic politics takes different forms in different countries, and that this variation matters for understanding democracy, elections and governance. I will do so by drawing almost twenty years of fieldwork on election campaigns and governance in India and Indonesia. Drawing on these studies, I will show that election campaigns in both countries can be fruitfully compared in terms of the character of the networks that facilitate clientelistic exchange, the benefits that politicians offer in exchange for votes, and the degree to which politicians, and especially parties, control the distribution of state resources. These comparisons suggest that community-centered and party-centered varieties of clientelism might be identified. In presenting these findings, my main proposition is that the comparative study of informal dimensions of politics offers considerable analytical promise for an understanding of the challenges facing contemporary democracies. 


Ward Berenschot

Ward Berenschot is a Professor in Comparative Political Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam & Senior Researcher at KITLV Leiden, specialising in identity politics, democratisation and governance in India and Indonesia. He is the author of Riot Politics: Hindu-Muslim Violence and the Indian State (Colombia University Press 2011) and Democracy for Sale: Elections, Clientelism and the State in Indonesia (Cornell University Press 2019, with E. Aspinall) as well as several articles and on ethnic violence, local governance and legal aid.