Published: April 14, 2016

The South Asia Speaker Series is bringing Dr. David Gilmartin, Professor of Anthropology at North Carolina State University, on Tuesday, April 19, to speak on "Voting and Party Symbols in India: The Visual and the Law in Constituting the Sovereign People." Dr. Gilmartin's talk will begin at 5:00 p.m. and be held in Hellems 199.

The establishment and legal regulation of voting practices provides a critical window for analyzing the distinctive meanings attached to the people’s sovereignty as an operative force in electoral democracies. In India, this is evident in the controversies that have surrounded the use of officially-sanctioned party electoral symbols in election campaigns. Originally adopted after India’s independence to facilitate voting by a largely illiterate population, symbols have since come to play critical roles as party logos. But their practical use and “misuse” has sparked considerable controversy, raising questions both about the role of visual images in mobilizing Indian voters on the one hand, and in threatening the idealized self-discipline on which the theory of Indian democracy has been based, on the other.  

David Gilmartin's research focuses on the intersections between the history of British imperialism in South Asia and the development of modern politics and forms of rule. His first book ("Empire and Islam: Punjab and the Making of Pakistan") looked at the relationship between British imperial rule and the creation of Pakistan at the time of India's independence from Britain in 1947. More recent research projects have focused on the connections between irrigation-based environmental transformations (in the Indus basin) and modern politics, and on the legal history of India's electoral institutions as they have evolved from its colonial past. His latest book "Blood and Water: The Indus River Basin in Modern History" (University of California Press, 2015) is the first large-scale environmental history of the region. 

Professor Gilmartin has served as associate editor of the Journal of Asian Studies and also Campus Director (for NC State) of Title VI South Asia Area Studies Center, Duke, UNC-Chapel  Hill, NCSU (2003-2011).

Sponsored by the Department of History and the Graduate Committee on the Arts and Humanities, University of Colorado Boulder.

For more information, contact Professor Mithi Mukherjee, Department of History,