This book aims to uncover and unravel the process of women’s political empowerment in rural India. In India today, while women make up more than 1/3 of local politicians and vote at high rates equal to those of men, they remain drastically under-represented in political spaces in between elections. Why do women in India vote but not participate in politics between elections? Through an exploration of the structure of political relations in the rural Indian village using original survey data and qualitative interviews with more than 10,000 women and men, I show that households cooperate in political decision-making yet, given coercion, women are often subjects of their households, as opposed to agents. Women’s political exclusion, therefore, persists because it serves the interests of those with political power. Yet, I show that women can break free from the control imposed by their households and become agents of their own political decisions. By evaluating a series of policies that mobilized women in rural India into micro-credit groups and fostered discussions about gender inequality, I show that collective action of a critical mass mobilized around a shared group consciousness and identity enables women to seize agency, contest coercion, and demand political representation. What is at stake in this endeavor is not only an understanding of the nature and constraints to women’s political participation but an understanding of the nature of power relations in rural Indian communities and the mechanisms used to sustain these hierarchies. And we know that when women have power, they change politics. By highlighting the unanticipated consequences of women’s political participation for development and governance, this book challenges the supposed link between economic development and political inclusion. Instead, I argue that it is precisely women’s political inclusion that is likely to precipitate social change.
The Patriarchal Political Order: The Making and Unraveling of the Gendered Participation Gap in India
Tuesday, October 31, 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:45pm
Henry R. Luce Hall (LUCE ), 203
34 Hillhouse AvenueNew Haven, CT 06511
Soledad Prillaman, Political Science, Stanford University