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Seminar: Leah Koskimaki — Wednesday 17 April 2019

Anthropology and Sociology Seminar Series 2019

A Regional Charisma and Politics of Visibility: The Making of a Student Leader in a Himalayan Hill Town 

Leah Koskimaki

Research Fellow and Project Leader for the University of the Western Cape’s Emerging Research Niche in Migration and Mobilities 

Wednesday 17 April 2019

Anthropology Lab, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, 13h00-14h20

In narratives of their political lives in Himalayan hill towns of Uttarakhand, North India, young men present themselves as leaders and guides. Building on literature on the making of political leaders in India, I show how these youth attempt to generate a ‘regional charisma,’ which they fashion through their ability to navigate the spaces and social worlds of the town. They refer and draw from political genealogies, demonstrate their local knowledge and creative abilities, and compare and associate themselves with ‘extraordinary’ figures.  Animated by discourses of purity and morality in this mountainous region, these student leaders of modest means orient their political practices toward service and care, disassociating themselves from party politics and corruption.  The article argues that politics for these youth can be defined and imagined as the production of a visible and aspirational force, demarcating a productive space within the generational transmission of experiential knowledge and yet rejection of the authority of ‘adult’ politics.

Dr. Leah Koskimaki is a Research Fellow and Project Leader for the University of the Western Cape’s Emerging Research Niche in Migration and Mobilities. She received her PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of Washington in Seattle in 2011, and her doctoral work focused on youth and student politics in small towns in North India, with a focus on issues of regional development, unemployment and mobility. She previously has worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at UWC, as well as conducted research at the National Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS) in Bengaluru India and affiliated with the University of Amsterdam, as part of a research programme studying the political and cultural context and influence of Indian migrant contributions to their home regions.

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