Civil Society Movements and the 'Twittering Classes' in the Postcolony: An Indian Case Study
Using Partha Chatterjee's insights on the formation of ‘civil society’ and how this is distinct from ‘political society’, this paper theorises the mobilisation of popular support via social media during the so-called ‘anti-corruption movement’ in India in 2011. It tracks the main themes of the civil society-led movement's Twitter feeds during two crucial phases of fasting by its self-proclaimed Gandhian leader, Anna Hazare. This highlights the mixing of nostalgic pre-independence discourses with new media savvy and provides a means of contextualising what such discursive mobilisation means for contemporary political formations in a post-colonial society such as India. The case study also sheds light on the urban- and middle-class-centred nature of the protest and its preference for media over electoral representation—this is in line with Chatterjee's conceptualisation of a civil society that undermines the authority of the state and excludes the rural and urban poor.