Who do Political Brokers Serve? Experimental Evidence from Informal Leaders in India’s Slums

Tariq Thachil (Vanderbilt University)
Friday, April 14, 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:20pm
Olson Room (Gowen 1A)

Professor Thachil will present his paper "Who do Political Brokers Serve? Experimental Evidence from Informal Leaders in India’s Slums." 

Abstract: Why are political brokers responsive to the claims of some voters and not others? Despite an expansive comparative literature on brokers, relatively few studies have systematically scrutinized their downstream responsiveness to clients. Existing literature anticipates brokers will privilege co-partisan and co-ethnic clients, whose reciprocity they can most confidently monitor. In this paper, we argue that brokers must also prioritize clients best positioned to maximize their local reputations for competence. We test our theoretical expectations through a conjoint survey experiment among archetypical urban brokers in the developing world: informal slum leaders. Embedded in local communities, slum leaders spearhead efforts to resist eviction and demand basic services, and encourage electoral support and turnout on behalf of political parties. Our survey of 629 slum leaders across 110 slums in two north Indian cities finds strong evidence of the importance of reputational concerns in driving broker responsiveness. We find more mixed evidence of brokers prioritizing monitoring concerns emphasized by extant literature, highlighted by a marked absence of ethnic favoritism within Indian slums.

Bio: Tariq Thachil is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Vanderbilt University. He was previously the Peter Strauss Family Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Yale University. Professor Thachil holds a B.A. in Economics from Stanford University (2003), and a Ph.D in Government from Cornell University (2009). His research focuses on political parties and political behavior, social movements, and ethnic politics, with a regional focus on South Asia. His first book examines how elite parties can use social services to win mass support, through a study of Hindu nationalism in India. The book was published by Cambridge University Press (Studies in Comparative Politics) in 2014 and won the 2015 Gregory Luebbert Award for best book in comparative politics, the 2015 Leon Epstein Award for best book on political parties, and the 2015 Gaddis Smith Award for best first book by a Yale faculty member on an international subject. His articles have appeared or are forthcoming in the American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Contemporary South Asia, and World Politics. Professor Thachil's current research focuses on the political consequences of urbanization, and draws on extensive qualitative and quantitative research among poor migrants and slum communities in Indian cities.

The SR-SCP is generously sponsored by the Severyns Ravenholt Endowment.

Yusri Supiyan will serve as the graduate student discussant.