ePrints@IIScePrints@IISc Home | About | Browse | Latest Additions | Advanced Search | Contact | Help

The Persistence of Political Power: A Communist �Party Village� in Kerala and the Paradox of Egalitarian Hierarchies

Kaul, N and Kannangara, N (2021) The Persistence of Political Power: A Communist �Party Village� in Kerala and the Paradox of Egalitarian Hierarchies. In: International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society .

int_jou_pol_cul_soc_2021.pdf - Published Version

Download (764kB) | Preview
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10767-021-09411-w


This article combines political analysis with ethnographic fieldwork to theorise Communist party�s construction of political allegiance and their persistence of power in the democratic context at a local village level in the state of Kerala in India. We provide an inaugural scholarly conceptualisation of an empirical phenomenon, known in Kerala popular parlance as �party gramam� or the �party village�, as the focus of analysis. As we explain, a �party village� is an administrative unit where a particular political party dominates not simply electorally but in all lived experience. We posit that the concept of �party village� is of specific value in our understanding of various forms of current (Communist) politics. The original ascendancy of communism in the village (as in many regions of Kerala) during the twentieth century was due to its progressive ideological challenge to feudal structures of class and caste oppression. However, in democratic post-independence India, the overwhelming dominance of Communist Party in the 'party village' presents the paradox of a party with an egalitarian ideology having adapted to a persistent Hindu caste hierarchy. After situating our work within the conceptual problematisations of political party competition, and in conversation with wider communist studies literature, we provide a background to the politics of Kerala and explain the unique phenomenon of �party villages� in Kerala. We then provide an insight into the social and economic structures of one such village, explaining the salience of these structures in relation to political allegiances. Next, we illustrate the paradox of continued caste hierarchies in a Communist Party village, and the multiple ways in which Hindu religion and caste structures are important to performing individual identity in social settings. We dissect the various means through which the grassroots Communist Party apparatus in the village maintains its dominance by adapting itself to regressive caste hierarchies for political profit at the same time as laying claim to having challenged them. In our concluding section, we place our village observations in the longer frame of historical north Kerala village politics, noting the changes over time and offering theoretical perspectives upon them. In this sense, through a mix of empirical observation with historical context and theorisation, we highlight the importance and the implications of unconventional democratic dynamics more generally. © 2021, The Author(s).

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society
Publisher: Springer
Additional Information: The copyright for this article belongs to Authors
Department/Centre: Centres under the Director > Skill Development Centre
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2021 11:16
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2021 11:16
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/70456

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item