David Gilmartin on Sovereignty in South Asia

On the 26th of January, Professor David Gilmartin gave a lecture on popular sovereignty and democracy in South Asia. Before the lecture, there was an hour and half long chai and conversation section, where Dr. Gilmartin responded to all sorts of questions from the audience which included professors as well as graduate students. These questions tended to center around Dr. Gilmartin’s intellectual career, as well as on his latest book ‘Blood and Water: The Indus River Basin in Modern History,’ on which he delivered a talk at the Seattle Art Museum the next day.

In his talk, Dr. Gilmartin began by elaborating on the German political theorist Carl Schmitt’s theory of sovereignty, and his idea of political theology. Dr. Gilmartin then proposed an amended model, where sovereignty was derived not from a God-like above-and-beyond as in Schmitt, but from an idea of asceticism. Dr. Gilmartin gave two examples of this– one in the figure of Gandhi, and the second in the introduction of elections. The lecture was followed by a lively round of engaging questions from the audience, which continued informally over chai and samosas.