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Sharma POLAR article 2013.pdf
Political and Legal Anthropology Review (2013)
  • Aradhana Sharma
Abstract
In 2005, the Indian government passed the Right to Information or RTI Act, which is hailed
for inaugurating an era of open, accountable, and truly postcolonial democracy. This article
focuses on how the RTI law is being both implemented and subverted in India through ordinary
bureaucratic proceduralism and what this tells us about the limits and contrary logic of state
transparency in the neoliberal age. India’s information freedom law has moorings in local
grassroots movements that fought long and hard for its passage, but it also articulates with
the global neoliberal development regime’s discourse on good governance. I consider where
and how dominant transnational meanings of state transparency crosscut and color popular
mobilizations of the RTI law in India. My contention is that the technocratic casting of
transparent and good governance under neoliberalism lends a formalized and procedural
hue to the ground-level workings of Indian law, which bureaucratizes social life, hems in
activist aspirations for fundamental changes in democratic governance and, paradoxically,
reinforces state opacity. On the one hand, citizens and activists are compelled to become
proficient in bureaucratic literacy in order to audit and petition the state. On the other hand,
officials strategically alter the language and procedures of administration, shifting the interplay
between writing and orality in their daily work and changing what they record and how they
do so to avert scrutiny and preserve state secrecy in the age of transparency.
Keywords
  • transparency,
  • neoliberalism,
  • the state,
  • good governance,
  • bureaucracy,
  • activism,
  • India
Publication Date
2013
Citation Information
Aradhana Sharma. "Sharma POLAR article 2013.pdf" Political and Legal Anthropology Review (2013)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/aradhana_sharma/6/