Jean-Thomas Martelli– Chair Symposium on “Outsourcing democracy: What does advisory do to political parties and governance in South Asia?” on June 2, 2023.

We are delighted to announce you that CSH associate researchers Dr. Jean-Thomas Martelli, Dr. Aprajita Sarcar, and Dr. Aasim Khan are participating in a Symposium entitled “Outsourcing democracy: What does advisory do to political parties and governance in South Asia?“. The event will in hybrid mode at the Center for South Asia, Stanford University in France on June 2, 2023 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (France time).

For more details and event schedule:

To register for the event: CLICK HERE


Four “Core Team Members” political consultants at a neighbourhood rally, Shillong, Meghalaya, India, August 2022. Photo by Jean-Thomas Martelli.

Advisor, salahkarmusheer, in-charge, expert, manager and now consultant; those who counsel decision makers in South Asia have as many names and acronyms as reputational attributes. They are defined by their persuasive power: they could help you win elections, plan cities of the future, master narratives of citizens participation and good governance, unleash misinformation and nativist tales on social media, collect and read through data, build capacity, recruit rivals, design/implement welfare schemes, centralize authority, ensure compliance, legitimize structural changes, spend money efficiently or just ‘show off’ in your constituency. While some of these marketized assertions are catered to mandators rather than the general public, this is a list of outcomes advisers boastfully claim they can deliver.

By bringing together insights from four disciplinary traditions—political science, anthropology, urban studies and sociology—this symposium aims at unpacking the actual impact of consultancy firms and advisors in South Asia when they assist the state and political parties. Beyond the necessary task of defining in a historical context who these actors are, the event will examine the following question: how do these surrogates influence the way democratic decision-making and brokerage work? A series of terms have been traditionally attached to democracies in the region: distributive (via targeted welfare and patronage), majoritarian (through ethnic- and community-based polity) and neo-liberal (by way of privatization of state competences). The event will not only explore how advisory deepens these three hyphens: it will also assess whether such labor refashions political and institutional representation of constituents.

For further information: Jean-Thomas Martelli (

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