CORDIS - EU research results

India's Politics in Its Vernaculars

Project description

Demotic political ideas in India

Talking of India as the largest democracy in the world means to evaluate the level at which Western-born values and political ideas are absorbed. However, analysing values such as rights, identity and secularism under the Euro-American prism could lead to significant misunderstandings. The EU-funded POLIVERNACULARS project intends to conduct pioneering research on India's demotic political ideas. It will examine under an ethnographic and historical lens the vernacular languages used in political life. The project is inspired by the Begriffsgeschichte project in Germany and will create the scheme for vernacular lexicography of India's political life. It will also create an online Concept Laboratory for Indian political languages aiming to advance a real political theory based on worldwide political realities.


It is extraordinary that, given the significance of India as the world’s largest democracy and a Rising Power, we know so little about the conceptual foundations of its political life. Much has been written about political ideas and institutions imported from Europe. And yet no focused, consecutive effort has gone into understanding the ideas that guide most ordinary Indian citizens’ engagement in their political lives. Analyses conducted through Euro-American categories and theoretical frames elevated to the status of universals – rights, identity, public sphere, secularism or indeed ‘politics’ – only generate paradoxes. This project will be a pioneering exploration of India’s demotic political ideas, which it will examine through a close ethnographic and historical scrutiny of the vernacular languages of its political life. Bringing together a team of anthropologists, historians, linguists and scholars of politics, and taking inspiration from the Begriffsgeschichte inquiry into German political concepts, it will (1) lay the empirical and analytical groundwork for a vernacular lexicography of India’s political life; (2) develop an online, open-access Concept Laboratory of Indian Political Languages; and (3) explore with scholars of European political ideas the implications of this work for global political theory. Drawing on the PI’s established work on the demotic categories and values in Indian politics, the project will break major new ground in the study of subcontinental politics; extend the methodological insights of the Begriffsgeschichte project beyond Europe; and make analytical advances towards a truly global political theory, grounded not in the analytical lingua franca of Western political theory, but in the realities of political life around the globe.


Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 500 000,00
WC2R 2LS London
United Kingdom

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London Inner London — West Westminster
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 500 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)