"Red tape addresses a contradiction: 'why has a state whose proclaimed motive is to foster development failed to help the large number of people who still live in dire poverty?' (p. 3). Rather than accusing the state of pretence - that the claim to foster development is empty - Gupta's argument is more nuanced. 'The paradox of the violence of poverty in India is that the poor are killed despite their inclusion in projects of national sovereignty and ... democratic politics' (p. 6). Gupta attends to this contradiction through ethnography of bureaucratic action, showing that 'no matter how noble the intentions of programs, and no matter how sincere the officials in charge of them, the overt goal of helping the poor is subverted by the very procedures of the bureaucracy' (p. 23)." - Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale 21.3 August 2013 "Akhil Gupta's masterfully crafted book seeks to contribute to our understanding of the persistence of poverty in India despite high rates of growth and numerous public programmes designed to eradicate this malaise. The persistence of poverty is explained through an anthropology of bureaucracy in a sub-district office in northern India. Based on a critical engagement with Foucault and Agamben, Gupta's book focuses on the themes of corruption, state inscription, and governmentality to elaborate his argument. The provocative assertion that poverty ought to be studied through the lens of 'structural violence' opens up new and fruitful ways of examining the link between poverty reduction and the state in India, but this insight remains analytically and ethnographically underdeveloped." - Indrajit Roy, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2013 "This long-awaited book is a masterful achievement, which offers a close look at the culture of bureaucracy in India and through this lens, casts new light on structural violence, liberalization and the paradox of misery in the midst of explosive economic growth. Akhil Gupta's sensitive analysis of the everyday practices of writing, recording, filing and reporting at every level of the Indian state joins a rich literature on the politics of inscription and marks a brilliant new benchmark for political anthropology in India and beyond." Arjun Appadurai, author of Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger "Why has the post-colonial Indian state seemed so incapable of improving the life chances of millions of the country's poor? Rather than seeing failure residing in policy or neglect - the Indian state after all champions participatory democracy - Akhil Gupta's brilliant book Red Tape argues that the structural violence inherent in the state operates as a form of bio-power in which normal bureaucratic procedures depoliticize the killing of the poor - by his account perhaps 2 million annually. Whether exploring corruption, literacy, or population policy, Gupta provides an utterly original account of the deadly operations of state power associated with the ascendancy of new industrial classes and of neoliberal practice in contemporary India. A tour de force." Michael Watts, author of Silent Violence: Food, Famine and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria
About the Author
Akhil Gupta is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for India and South Asia at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of "Postcolonial Developments: Agriculture in the Making of Modern India" and a coeditor of "Culture, Power, Place: Explorations in Critical Anthropology," both also published by Duke University Press. He is also a coeditor of "The State in India after Liberalization: Interdisciplinary Perspectives," "Anthropological Locations: Boundaries and Grounds of a Field Science," "The Anthropology of the State: A Reader," and "Caste and Outcast."