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Worth the while? Time and politics in Delhi

Dubochet, Lucy (2019) Worth the while? Time and politics in Delhi. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis discusses how time and politics interact around basic services in two poor neighbourhoods of Delhi, India. It asks when do people deem it worthwhile to devote time to actions aimed at improving access to services. Its most original contributions stem from several apparent contradictions between findings from a survey conducted during the first weeks of fieldwork and the extensive ethnographic research that followed. The survey’s findings suggest that fewer people are taking action to obtain better services in places where political accountability is weak. They are also less likely to take action or engage in politics when disadvantages related to gender or other identity characteristics compromise their claims. On the contrary, the ethnographic evidence suggests that people are devoting long hours to negotiating with service providers and middlemen precisely where caste rivalries and land disputes undermine service delivery. It also shows that women do so more than men, and that a group of slum dwellers whose political rights are compromised embark on a long journey to cast their votes with no expectation of better services in return. The analysis of these findings offers new insights into how time and other factors combine to enable or undermine demands for better services. It also provides evidence that people underreport the time and opportunity costs of having to wait for erratic service delivery. Similarly, ethnographic observations reveal many time-consuming involvements in the politics of basic service delivery that are not reported in the survey. These contributions speak to debates spanning questions both of method and of substance across several disciplines. Insights about how people report their time, value it and behave within it, bring into dialogue ‘quantitative time use research’ and ‘ethnographies of waiting’. More broadly, the behaviours described in the thesis bring a temporal perspective to questions raised by literature on everyday interactions with the state in India.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Lucy Dubochet
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > International Development
Supervisor: Putzel, James and Corbridge, Stuart and Burchardt, Tania

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