Tarini Bedi

The Feminization Of Patronage: Urban Brokerage And The Locality Of Power

This paper looks at the performative and discursive ways by which female political subjects are produced out of formal and informal political and cultural processes framed by a political party that functions both within, and outside the state. It examines the party politics of women of a militant, political party in urban India, Shiv Sena (Shivaji’s Army) to examine the emergence of urban female “patrons” and “power-brokers.” This is a unique form of gendered patronage that relies heavily on the deep involvement of the “patron” in people’s everyday lives, as much as it does on the perception of the patron as “protector” in some way. The paper attempts to shift the discussion of political patrons in South Asia away from the domain of elite politics and male-centered political action. It does so by suggesting that urban political power at the local and often informal levels of party activity is a continually negotiated process where constitutions of gendered personality become critical to the production of personal and political power. Increasingly, the contest over urbanization that has been unleashed by transnational visions of urban space has opened up particularly significant spheres of influence for female party-workers at the local levels of Shiv Sena’s functioning. Using data from extensive fieldwork conducted with women of the Shiv Sena party, I focus on specific cases of urban contest in urbanizing Maharashtra to illustrate the emergence of female patrons and power-brokers and the performative constitution of gendered, urban political power.