Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

Migrants and Machine Politics: How India's Urban Poor Seek Representation and Responsiveness

in partnership with South Asia Center

Adam Auerbach and Tariq Thachil
Associate Professor, School of International Service, American University and CASI Director, Professor of Political Science, Madan Lal Sobti Professor for the Study of Contemporary India, University of Pennsylvania, respectively
Thursday, September 21, 2023 - 04:30
Center for the Advanced Study of India Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science & Economics 133 South 36th Street, Suite 230 Philadelphia PA 19104-6215

A Book Workshop with the Authors
with discussants Robert Jenkins (CUNY), Nikhil Anand (Penn), and Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro (Brown University)
Reception to follow

About the Book (from Princeton University Press)

As the Global South rapidly urbanizes, millions of people have migrated from the countryside to urban slums, which now house one billion people worldwide. The transformative potential of urbanization hinges on whether and how poor migrants are integrated into city politics. Popular and scholarly accounts paint migrant slums as exhausted by dispossession, subdued by local dons, bought off by wily politicians, or polarized by ethnic appeals. Migrants and Machine Politics shows how slum residents in India routinely defy such portrayals, actively constructing and wielding political machine networks to demand important, albeit imperfect, representation and responsiveness within the country’s expanding cities.
Drawing on years of pioneering fieldwork in India’s slums, including ethnographic observation, interviews, surveys, and experiments, Adam Michael Auerbach and Tariq Thachil reveal how migrants harness forces of political competition—as residents, voters, community leaders, and party workers—to sow unexpected seeds of accountability within city politics. This multifaceted agency provokes new questions about how political networks form during urbanization. In answering these questions, this book overturns longstanding assumptions about how political machines exploit the urban poor to stifle competition, foster ethnic favoritism, and entrench vote buying.

By documenting how poor migrants actively shape urban politics in counterintuitive ways, Migrants and Machine Politics sheds new light on the political consequences of urbanization across India and the Global South.

About the Authors:
Adam Auerbach is an Associate Professor in the School of International Service at American University and a CASI Non-Resident Visiting Scholar.

Tariq Thachil is the Director of CASI, Professor of Political Science, and Madan Lal Sobti Professor for the Study of Contemporary India at the University of Pennsylvania.

View Full CASI Fall 2023 Events Flyer