“Crisis as catalyst: Covid-19, social citizenship and political transformation in India”

Dr. Ravi Ahuja, head of the research group “Modern Indian History”, was awarded 125.000€ for a project on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on social citizenship and political transformation in India.

The research project “Crisis as catalyst: Covid-19, social citizenship and political transformation in India” examines how the Covid-19 pandemic impacts on postcolonial India’s uneven “social citizenship” – a contested articulation of welfare discourses, modalities of governance, and infrastructures of social redistribution.

The ongoing crisis is analysed as an unfinished, still unfolding historical event; as a moment of societal acceleration creating sudden strains, and opening new possibilities for consolidation as much as for contestation. The project examines the Covid-19 crisis as a crisis of social citizenship, articulated at three levels:
1/ it created unprecedented strains on India’s infrastructure of social redistribution,
2/ it impacted on existing modalities of governance and created new fields of contestation over issues of social entitlement and
3/ it gave rise to contradictory discourses and perceptions of “social citizenship”.

Applying methods of historical research to the present, the project will provide an analytical chronicle of the crisis from the first weeks of 2020 when the first cases of SARS-CoV-2 were registered in India, through the summer of 2021, as the country suffered through a harrowing second wave of infections. The analytical chronicle will be documented through the consultation of a range of sources, both published and digital, and through interviews with various actors. By creating an account of the first eighteen months of India’s Covid-19 crisis while the event continues to unfold, the project aims at capturing the dynamism of social perceptions, behaviour and the contradictory possibilities opened up by the crisis. The analytical chronicle generated by the project is intended to serve as the basis for a deeper historical investigation of the mutations of post-colonial India’s structure of “social citizenship” – a process that is highlighted as the crisis unfolds.