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Restructuring States, Restructuring Ethnicity: Looking Across Disciplinary Boundaries at Federal Futures in India and Nepal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Sara Shneiderman, Louise Tillin

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-39
Number of pages39
Issue number1
PublishedJan 2015


  • Restructuring States, Restructuring Ethnicity_SHNEIDERMAM_Epub28May2015_GREEN AAM

    Modern_Asian_Studies_Tillin_and_Shneiderman_as_accepted_version_Dec_2013.pdf, 1.25 MB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:21 Jul 2015

    Version:Accepted author manuscript

    Licence:CC BY-NC-ND

    This article has been accepted for publication and will appear in a revised form, subsequent to editorial input by Cambridge University Press, in Modern Asian Studies © Cambridge University Press.

King's Authors


India and federalising Nepal represent distinct types of federal polity: their origins lie not in the unification of previously autonomous states, but in the devolution of power by a previously centralised state. The boundaries of their constituent sub-units are therefore open to debate, and settling their contours is central to the project of state-building. Written by a political scientist and an anthropologist, this article presents a comparative exploration of the reciprocal relationship between state structuring and ethnicity in India and Nepal, with a focus on the effects of territorial versus non-territorial forms of recognition. It pushes against recent tendencies within South Asian Studies to see ethnic identity as called into being solely by state practices or ‘governmentality’ on one hand, or as a newly commoditised form of belonging produced through neoliberal reforms on the other. Instead it argues that ethnicity must be understood as a multivalent concept that is at once embedded in specific histories of state and sub-state formation, and generative of them. Comparative in scope yet driven by qualitative data collected over years of engagement across the region, the article charts a middle way between detailed ethnographic studies and large-scale comparative endeavors.

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