Oral Democracy and Women?S Oratory Competency in Indian Village Assemblies: A Qualitative Analysis
56 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016
Date Written: September 21, 2015
In democracies, innovative political institutions have opened up scope for direct public participation often in the form of talk: citizens talking to the state and mutual talk among citizens on matters concerning community development. A prominent example is the Indian gram sabha, or village assembly, which occurs in a highly stratified context. This paper undertakes a talk-centered analysis of the gram sabha with a focus on examining the oral participation of women in general and women affiliated with microcredit self-help groups who have access to an associational life. The qualitative analysis of 255 gram sabha transcripts from four South Indian states finds that women associated with microcredit self-help groups employ a wider variety of narrative styles and utilize a more multilayered structure to convey their messages compared with all women taken together. Thus, the difference is not so much in the numerical instances of talking or in the types of issues raised, but rather in the quality of participation. The paper makes an important theoretical contribution by proposing the concept of oral democracy as an alternative to deliberative democracy, and urges an analytical focus on the oral or oratory competency of subordinated groups as they participate in these important institutions.
Keywords: Social Development & Poverty, Inequality
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