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The Moral Setting for Governance in Keonjhar: The Cultural Framing of Public Episodes and Development Processes in Northern Orissa, India


  • Alan Rew
  • Shahzad Khan


Classic ethnographic monographs on eastern India had pinpointed profound changes in political organization. In recent decades, ethnography has avoided policy-relevant research in line with a general narrowing of research. Current donor interests in governance reform have created new opportunities. In Orissa, the authors have researched trends in governance and can confirm a major disjuncture between community structures and government rule, so supporting a trend and social analysis that others have too readily dismissed as “anarcho-communitarian”. The tribal villagers studied were wary of all rule, and experienced the state as a site of humiliation rather than of empowerment. They were expected to respect the officials as “proxy parents” but would not, as uncouth aborigines, be treated in turn as “sons”. The type of governance reform envisaged by donors depends on officialdom with a lighter touch. This will require ethnographic understanding and intensive inputs to counter tenacious ideas of rule over non-equivalent citizens.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan Rew & Shahzad Khan, 2006. "The Moral Setting for Governance in Keonjhar: The Cultural Framing of Public Episodes and Development Processes in Northern Orissa, India," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(1), pages 99-115.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:34:y:2006:i:1:p:99-115
    DOI: 10.1080/13600810500496152

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Birdsall, Nancy, 1993. "Social development is economic development," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1123, The World Bank.
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    1. Rew, Alan & Khan, Shahzad & Rew, Martin, 2007. ""P3 > Q2" in Northern Orissa: An Example of Integrating "Combined Methods" (Q2) Through a "Platform for Probing Poverties" (P3)," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 281-295, February.

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