Who cares about participation? How a rhetorical state policy is practised incredulously

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This article responds to a recently made proposition that development policy does not drive practice but, instead, that practice produces policy, with key actors striving to maintain coherent representations of it. This proposition is used to examine the translation of the national policy for participatory Watershed Development in India into concrete procedures at the district level and, ultimately, the practices that follow to sustain them. While uncovering a definite chain of ‘upward’ representations in the relationship between practice and policy, this article discovers a striking disjuncture in the stakes of those who formulate the policy and all those who implement it, even in upholding a formal commitment to participation as the new authorised policy. This article demonstrates how participation actually works as a rhetorical state strategy in the face of widespread incredulity, with seriously impairing effects for equity as a policy objective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-446
Number of pages18
JournalContemporary South Asia
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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