Politics, Law and Society

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSC8124

Semester and Year Offered: Sixth

Course Coordinator and Team: Rukmini Sen

Email of course coordinator: rukmini[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

: This course by bringing together two distinct and yet connected areas in sociology—political sociology and sociology of law, aims towards creating a comprehensive idea on state, power and the citizen. The citizen, who is a creation of the law but also makes the law in a democratic state, and at the same challenges the power of law by foregrounding the politics behind the legal institution, is constantly present in this course. The power and ideology of colonialism, anthropological explorations to unresolved questions that remain in the post-colony, like that of personal laws, questions on gendered agency and legal pluralism are important sites that this course will engage with. The other site to engage is that of caste and how pursuits of equality and caste based violence intersect the legal and the political spheres.

Course Outcomes:

  1. Enabling students to engage with the concept of citizenship and be aware of some of the citizenship rights guaranteed in the Indian Constitution
  2. Recognizing how there has been resistance to colonial state in India and other areas
  3. Orienting students towards meanings of pluralism and diversity in cultural practices of different communities in India
  4. Facilitating in making sense of agency in an otherwise hierarchical social reality in which caste-gender lives are led
  5. Focusing on assessing and finding answers to the reasons for violence against marginalized groups in India despite the Constitution guaranteeing human rights

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Unit 1: Approaches to state and power: The meaning and formation of states in modern societies and how power is intrinsic to the creation of this institution

Unit 2: Perspectives on Sociology of Law: Through the writings of classical sociologists Durkheim, Marx and Weber who had engaged with law, its functioning there will be an exploration of how the nature of law determines modernity and capitalism

Unit 3: Law and Social Change in India: Law has been an instrument of social transformation especially for societies who have experienced colonialism. The Indian Constitution which abolishes untouchability and guarantees equality for all on the basis of caste and sex are the fundamental rights discussed as agents of change

Unit 4: Violence in Law: Law can become a tool of power and violence—while engaging with questions of marriage and caste the law in paper and the law in practice are very different

Unit 5: Colonialism Power and Control in the Colony, How Colonialism Makes the Other , Political strategies of resistance under colonialism: Colonial state power and its hegemonic projects created multiple ways of resisting them

Module 6: Interrogating "Agency"—How is agency understood in contexts of intersectional women’s lives in situations of religion and race

Module 7: A Contemporary Political Debate from India: Uniform Civil Code and questions of legal pluralism: Questions of diversity and community rights have been in contradiction with individual rights, by taking one example of the debates around UCC in India, these concepts will be discussed

Assessment Details with weights:

  1. Students will be required to choose a topic of their interest and work on it throughout half the semester dealing with Politics and Society. Students will maintain a journal for this section to be submitted at the end of six weeks. One of the aims of this exercise is to apply the theoretical readings in this course to understand a concrete situation. (30%)
  2. Group activity of a scrap book (30%)—representing a legal issue of contemporary relevance through photos/reports collected from newspapers and attaching a 1000 word write up on the issue discussed focusing on describing the law, what is the current debate around that law, how has that debate been represented in newspapers (through articles and visuals) and what is the student’s understanding of the debate?
  3. End Semester class room examination from some of the readings identified well in advance (40%)

Reading List:

  1. David Held Political Theory and the Modern State: Essays on State, Power and Democracy, Stanford University Press, 1989
  2. Entry on citizenship in
  3. Thompson, Kenneth (1985) Readings from Emile Durkheim pp 19-32 available online at
  4. Marx, Karl German Ideology available online at (excerpts)
  5. Yogendra Singh, Law and Social Change in India, Indra Deva (edited) Sociology of Law, Oxford University Press, 2010
  6. Marc Galanter Pursuing Equality in the Land of Hierarchy in Galanter (edited) Law and Society in Modern India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi pp 185-207
  7. Prem Choudhury Private Lives, State Intervention: Cases of Runaway Marriages in Rural North India, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Feb., 2004), pp. 55-84, available online at
  8. Teltumbde, Anand Khairlanji and its Aftermath: Exploding Some Myths, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 42, No. 12 (Mar. 24-30, 2007), pp. 1019-1025, available online at
  9. Taussig, Michael T. Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1986.
  10. Talal Asad, 2008. “On Agency and Pain: An Exploration,” in Culture and Religion, an Interdisciplinary Journal 1:1, pp.26-60.
  11. Nivedita Menon, 2014. A Uniform Civil Code in India: State of the Debate in Feminist Studies, Vol.2, No.2, Spl. Issue on Food and Ecology, pp. 480-486.


  1. Merry, Sally Engle Legal Pluralism Law and Society Review, Vol. 22, No. 5 (1988) pp 869-896 available online at
  2. Shah, A M (2014) Parameters of Family Policy in India in The Writings of A M Shah: The Household and Family in India. Orient Blackswan, New Delhi pp 438-449
  3. Gluckman, Max. Custom and Conflict in Africa, ( selections)
  4. Ashis Nandy The Political Culture of the Indian State Daedalus, Vol. 118, No. 4, Another India (Fall, 1989), pp. 1-26