In 2019, Asia’s two largest democracies—India and Indonesia—held national elections. In this seminar, these elections provide the starting point to examine how women are faring within their respective electoral systems. Drawing upon ethnographic research among women party cadres in Dehradun, India, a series of consultations with academics and stakeholders in India and Indonesia in August 2019, and recent literature emerging from the 2019 elections, Dr Jakimow considers how socio-political and economic structures are changing in ways that facilitate, or alternatively frustrate women standing for, and being elected as members of legislative assemblies. The lessons from 2019 are not heartening, pointing to the enduring nature of barriers to political participation, as well as new challenges arising from contemporary political conditions.
The aim of the seminar is to learn from these lessons and tentatively map out an agenda of research and practical action to increase the number of women elected in India and Indonesia in elections due in 2024. Comparative inquiry of these two different, and in themselves diverse socio-political contexts, reveals knowledge gaps, areas in which we can deepen understanding, and opportunities for existing knowledge to better inform policy and practice. Dr Jakimow explores how anthropological study that is attentive to the cultural specificities of personhood, life-course/cycle, affective labour, emotions, socio-historical forces among others, can reveal fresh insights into women’s relative absence in political power, as well as the mechanisms of male dominance of party politics. Cross-country comparison aims to develop Asian-centred theories, concepts and analytical frameworks to advance scholarship on women in politics in Asia, and beyond. The exploratory paper seeks to identify the most urgent and fruitful lines of future enquiry through dialogue with seminar participants.
About the speaker
Dr Tanya Jakimow is an anthropologist of development, researching in India and Indonesia. Her current book project Susceptibility in Development: the micro-politics of urban development in India and Indonesia (contracted OUP), proposes a new approach to understanding power configurations in local level development. It draws upon ARC funded ethnographic research with volunteers in Medan, Indonesia, and with women Municipal Councillors in Dehra Dun, India. Tanya’s earlier publications span topics such as voluntarism, livelihoods, agrarian change, NGOs, urban governance among others. She is currently Senior Lecturer and Development Studies convenor at UNSW Sydney, where she leads a collaboration of scholars conducting comparative research on Women in Politics in Asia.