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Ethnicity and Pluralism: An Exploration with Reference to Indian Cases*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 November 2009

Narendra Subramanian
Affiliation:
McGill University

Abstract

When might high ethnic mobilization co-exist with social pluralism? The article addresses this question by comparing four of India's major ethnic movements/parties. “Organizational pluralism” denotes flexibility and autonomy in party-society and intra-party transactions. Pluralism within influential political organizations aids social pluralism. High levels of organizational pluralism led Dravidianism to aid social pluralism; comparatively low levels led Hindu revivalist and Sikh organizations to ignore incentives to adopt more inclusive strategies. States willing and able to foster tolerance will emerge amidst high ethnic mobilization only if activists promote pluralism within major ethnic organizations.

Résumé

Un haut niveau de mobilisation ethnique peut-il co-exister avec le pluralisme social, et dans quelles conditions? Cet article répond à cette question par la comparaison de quatre des principaux mouvements/partis ethniques de I'lnde. Le « pluralisme organisationnel » dénote l'existence d'un certain degré de flexibilité et d'autonomie dans les relations internes des partis et dans les rapports qu'ils entretiennent avec la société. Le pluralisme des organisations politiques influentes est un facteur de promotion du pluralisme social. Ainsi, un haut niveau de pluralisme organisationnel a permis au dravidianisme de contribuer au pluralisme social; à l'inverse, un niveau relativement bas de pluralisme organisationnel a conduit les organisations sikh et celles du « renouveau hindou » à ignorer les incitations à l'adoption de stratégies politiques plus conciliantes. L'émergence d'États capables et désireux de promouvoir la tolérance ne sera possible, dans un contexte de mobilisation ethnique élevée, que si les militants promouvoient le pluralisme au sein des principals organisations ethniques.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association 1999

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References

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12 Support for the Muslim Conference, which alone favoured amalgamation with Pakistan, was concentrated in Azad Kashmir (the portion occupied by Pakistan) after 1948.

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17 The banning of some Hindu revivalist organizations after the assassination of Gandhi and after the destruction of the Babri Masjid was not backed by systematic crackdowns.

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26 Subramanian, Ethnicity and Populist Mobilization, 136–44; Barnett, Politics of Cultural Nationalism, 239–310; Ramaswamy, Sumathi, Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891–1970 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998Google Scholar); and Annadurai, Panaththottam.

27 For other typologies of populism, see Ionescu and Gellner, Populism, and Allcock, J. B., “Populism: A Brief Biography,” Sociology 5 (1971), 371387CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Arun Swamy misleadingly claims to have initially conceptualized the kind of typology I adopt. See Swamy, Arun R., “Parties, Political Identities and the Absence of Mass Political Violence in South India,” in Kohli, Atul and Basu, Amrita, eds., The State and Community Conflicts in India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998), 109Google Scholar (note 1). This typology was introduced in Subramanian, Narendra, “Ethnicity, Populism and Pluralist Democracy: Mobilization and Representation in South India” (unpublished doctoral dissertation, MIT, 1993Google Scholar) and prefigured by discussion of the “moral economy” and “sons of the soil” outlooks in Subramanian, Narendra, “Towards an Understanding of the Dravidian Movement” (unpublished Masters thesis, MIT, 1987Google Scholar).

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33 MGR was a non-Brahmin Malayaii and thus within the scope of the broader definition of the Dravidian as a non-Brahmin South Indian, but this construction of ethnicity did not find broad acceptance.

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