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Thu, 03 Feb



Mafia Raj: Ethnographic Notes on Intimidation in North India

Lucia Michelutti, Professor of Anthropology, University College London

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Date & Location

03 Feb 2022, 16:00 – 17:00



Mafia Raj:  Ethnographic Notes on Intimidation in North India 

This paper explores how ‘dhamakana’ (to intimidate/ to instil fear) is central to everyday politicking in North India. Protection/extortion is at the heart of the careers of economic and political bosses (locally known as dabangs) in Western Uttar Pradesh. Drawing on long term fieldwork I  illustrate and analyse the micro-level interactions constituting the production of 'offers that cannot be refused'  by various actors: community leaders, elected dons, the local musclemen, the goons,  the money lenders, the police and state officers.  The paper shows how in instances of extortive relations often while the offer may be one the extorted cannot refuse, the process does demand a theatre of consent and thus implicates the extorted in the act. Understanding how people experience and rationalise their acts of consent is crucial to gaining insight into the lasting social relations and type of sovereignties  that certain forms of intimidation create. 

Lucia Michelutti, Professor of Anthropology, University College London

Lucia Michelutti is Professor of Anthropology at UCL. Her major research interest is the study of popular politics, religion, law and order, and violence across South Asia (North India) and Latin America (Venezuela). She is the author of The Vernacularisation of Democracy (2008) and co-authored of Mafia Raj: The rule of Bosses in South Asia (2018) and Wild East: Criminal Political Economies in South Asia (2019), and has published scholarly articles on caste/race, leadership, muscular politics and crime, and political experimentations. She is the convener of the MSc in Politics, Violence and Crime and currently the PI of a five year ERC funded project entitled ‘Anthropologies of Extortion'. 


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