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Leadership, Authority and Legitimation in South Asia

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Recent political developments in South Asia left new types of leaders and leadership in their wake. Nepal’s transition to democracy; mass political protests in Pakistan; the landslide election of Narendra Modi as India’s new prime minister; and the rapid influx of criminal politicians all raise pressing questions of authority, leadership and legitimation.

These questions have enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the study of the subcontinent, but they have recently been made redundant as social scientists turned to concerns of violence and ‘power’. This workshop will include contributions on political, moral, and religious forms of leadership in the region and the global South Asian diaspora. Participants will consider what makes South Asia’s leaders acceptable or even intensely desirable in their followers’ eyes. What institutions, ideas and practices give persons the right to lead, represent or rule? What obligations and potencies does this right entail? And how do established local conventions of legitimation shape—and come to be shaped by—new institutions, circumstances and norms?

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