ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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‘We Must Persevere and Persuade, Not Lose Our Tempers and Shout’

How Women Corporators Experience and Shape the Gendered State under Conditions of Urban Transformation

Little is known regarding how women politicians at the local level experience and influence everyday political work. This paper remedies this gap by focusing on narratives from 14 women corporators in the newly formed Vasai–Virar City Municipal Corporation in the context of expanded electoral representation for women in cities. The conceptualisation of women corporators’ agency as enabled by nested structures of subordination, situated at the intersection of gender and agency, helps understand the discursive and practical conditions within which women corporators in a non-metro Indian city arrive at varied forms of aspiration and capacities for action.

The building of the new city of Vasai–Virar, located about 50 miles north of Mumbai and connected to it by the suburban railway, is popularly associated with the patronage politics of one man—Hitendra Thakur. In South Asia, patronage politics foregrounding “hero” or “strongman” politics with male protagonists has a long history. In these stories of city making, women are typically absent. In this paper, we depart from such accounts in two important ways. First, we focus on women corporators about whom little is known or written, despite the fact that they are now equal in number to men in the context of expanded gender quotas. Second, we shift the focus of our enquiry to the sphere of the incremental, everyday and relational—an approach to politics that women corporators often employ since theirs is a politics that is shaped by gendered expectations at multiple scales—the family, the party/government and society at large.

This paper seeks to understand how women corporators in the recent Vasai–Virar City Municipal Corporation (VVCMC) both experience and shape the state. In developing our focus on women corporators and their everyday practices of corporator-ing, we draw from Sharma and Gupta (1991) who argue that the state comes to a position of power through the everyday practices and processes of individuals and institutions that constitute the state, and through which people make meaning of the state.

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Updated On : 27th Feb, 2023
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