Cultures of Democracy
Cultures of Democracy, a special issue of Public Culture, proposes that democratic strategies and practices pursued by different countries, and the relative successes of those strategies and practices, are deeply affected by the countries' cultures, histories, and reception of, or resistance to, modernity. The collection suggests that a commitment to normative models of democracy prevents recognition of democratic practices in societies not usually seen as democratic or proto-democratic from a Western vantage point. Offering accounts of practices of democracy in Egypt, Yemen, Argentina, and India, these cultural theorists—drawing on work in anthropology, political theory, and postcolonial studies—revise notions of what might be regarded as a democratic practice.
The essays look at examples of democracy in a variety of spheres. One examines how the chewing of khat leaves in public gatherings in Yemen acts as a democratic practice by creating spontaneous forums for political discussion. Another considers the events of the 2003 municipal elections in Buenos Aires, when the center Right secured a record number of votes from an electorate jaded by political corruption by forming strategic alliances with local football clubs, ultimately leading to the election of the president of one popular club. And another essay explores the Indian government's reaction when the political methods used to achieve the nation's independence—defiance of the law, hunger strikes, demonstrations, and the destruction of public property—were used to challenge the government in the postcolonial period. Taken as a whole, the essays argue that democracy might be productively viewed as a cultural system inclusive of many cultures of democracy.
Contributors. Arjun Appadurai, Craig Calhoun, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Jean Comaroff, Carlos Forment, Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar, Claudio Lomnitz , Manar Shorbagy, Charles Taylor, Lisa Wedeen