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Reconsidering Indian Democratic Thought: The 1923 Constitution of Mysore State

Tejas Parasher

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Bunche Hall, Room 10383

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Historians and political theorists have long been interested in how the idea of “popular sovereignty” – the authority of a people over the laws and institutions of a state – was understood during the Indian national movement. The dominant historiographical account has associated Indian notions of popular sovereignty as the normative foundation of government with the demand for swaraj (self-rule) through representative institutions during the first half of the twentieth century, a demand seen as eventually culminating in the political architecture of the 1950 Constitution of India. This talk seeks to trouble such a straightforward nationalist narrative about the development of Indian democratic thought. I turn to a draft constitution prepared for the princely state of Mysore in southern India in late 1922 and early 1923. I show how this constitution conceptualized popular sovereignty as an anti-electoral principle and opposed the Indian National Congress’ adherence to a British model of parliamentary supremacy. Examining an archive of constitutional thought situated at the margins of nationalist struggle, I reconsider the place of Indian democracy within global histories of constitutionalism and political representation.

Tejas Parasher is Assistant Professor of Political Theory in the Department of Political Science and the International Institute at UCLA. He is a historian of modern political thought, with particular interests in the ways that modern democratic principles have evolved in relation to empire and anti-colonialism beyond Western Europe and North America. His first book, Radical Democracy in Modern Indian Political Thought, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press in July 2023.

Tejas received his PhD in Political Theory from the University of Chicago in 2019. Prior to joining UCLA, he was Junior Research Fellow in Political Thought and Intellectual History at King’s College, University of Cambridge.

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