Journal Article

'Lean on me': Sifarish, mediation & the digitisation of state bureaucracies in India


Through an ethnographic focus on Muslim neighbourhoods in a North Indian city, this article traces the effects of increasing digitisation of Public Distribution Systems (PDS) and ID provision in India by examining the implications for relations between the state, low-level political actors and local populaces. The article explores the practice of sifarish (leaning on someone to get something done) which, it is argued, cannot be seen within simplistic rubrics of ‘corruption’ but instead comprises a socially embedded ethical continuum. With one of the stated aims of digitisation being the displacing of informal mediation, the ethnographic material illuminates the efforts of low-level political actors to navigate emerging digital infrastructures. Digitisation, however, does not end mediation and carries with it ideological, political and economic interests. This, the article argues, enables state/people spaces of mediation to be commodified and marketized and further cements processes of marginalisation experienced by India’s Muslim minority.

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Chambers, Thomas

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2020
Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-06-18

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This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of 10.1177/1466138120940755


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