1st Edition

Civil Society in South Asia

Edited By David Taylor, Heewon Kim Copyright 2023

    Are new ideas needed to disentangle the uses and abuses of the idea of civil society both in South Asia and beyond? This book seeks to explore this question by reviewing the debate on civil society mainly in India but also in Pakistan.

    Civil society is a term that has a rich history in European political and social thought since the 17th century. Yet it has also become shorthand either for groups who place themselves in opposition to state elites or for non- governmental organizations that initiate, often in partnership with international agencies, programmes of economic and social development that to a greater or lesser extent are distanced from the state. The purpose of this collection of essays, initially presented at a seminar in 2018 in Hyderabad in South India, is to explore these disconnects and to see if concepts of civil society can be developed that go with the grain of South Asia’s political and historical experience. Some of the chapters in this edited volume focus specifically on theoretical dimensions, while others take case studies from India and Pakistan.

    The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of the Journal of Civil Society.

    Introduction: Civil Society in South Asia

    David Taylor and Heewon Kim

    1. Does a plural civil society matter? Reflecting on the varieties of associational life in India

    Gurpreet Mahajan

    2. Partha Chatterjee’s concepts of civil society and ‘uncivil’ political society: Is the distinction valid?

    Harihar Bhattacharyya

    3. Civil society in Bengal: The postcolonial conundrum

    Sanjeeb Mukherjee

    4. Catholics, caste and citizenship: Engagements in civil society

    Rowena Robinson

    5. Community organizations and educational development among Muslims: Lessons from the ‘Kerala Experience’

    Mohd. Sanjeer Alam

    6. Building language, building province: Civil society and ethnic nationalism in Pakistan

    Asma Faiz


    David Taylor has worked at the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London and the Aga Khan University in Karachi and London. He is currently Dean of Humanities at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh.

    Heewon Kim has her PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London, where she was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow. She is currently Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University in the UK.