The Patriarchal Political Order and Family Politics in Rural India

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Meeting ID: 971 5609 9278 Passcode: 324627

In India today, while women make up more than 1/3 of local politicians and vote at high rates equal to those of men, they remain drastically under-represented in political spaces in between elections. Why do women in India vote but not participate in politics between elections? Through an exploration of the structure of political relations in the rural Indian village using original survey data, including complete network data in six villages, and qualitative interviews with more than 10,000 women and men, I show that households cooperate in political decision-making yet, given coercion, women are often subjects of their households, as opposed to agents. When is it in men’s interest to support women’s political participation? I argue that men will support women’s political participation when it yields increasing marginal returns to the household. To understand the conditions under which women participate and the role of social relationships in shaping that participation, we first conduct a census of all adult residents in 14 villages in rural Bihar, collecting detailed network data, and then randomly invite already-surveyed citizens to a public meeting. Randomly varying the gender of the invitee and an incentive to bring others, new experimental evidence estimates the diffusion of invitations through men’s and women’s intra- and extra-household networks. Randomly varying at the village-level the availability of a women-only meeting, we evaluate the role of social costs in shaping women’s participation. What is at stake in this endeavor is not only an understanding of the nature and constraints to women’s political participation but an understanding of the nature of power relations and governance in rural Indian communities and the mechanisms used to sustain these hierarchies.