Date of Award

Spring 5-23-2022

Document Type




First Advisor

Keller Easterling

Second Advisor

Rohit De


Alongside rampant state violence, the systematic disenfranchisement of minorities and a draconian approach to dissent, since 2014 India has been the site of a relentless project of managerial competence. Projects like the Aadhaar biometric identity programme, the government’s embrace of performance indices, and the construction of a massive new capital in central Delhi – the case studies at the heart of this thesis – promise a new, transforming nation, characterised by Narendra Modi’s slogan “maximum governance, minimum government”. Dramatizing efficiency and transparency against the perceived inefficiency and corruption of the old India, such projects’ aesthetics allow a violent Hindu majoritarian government to claim global respectability and leadership and underwrite an aspirational managerial populism. At the same time, the apparatus of maximum governance – which encompasses not just PR and advertising but also novel forms of measurement and identification, laws, regulations, organizational processes and built environments – is bringing about radical shifts in Indian state and society. Empowering new kinds of agents and institutions, these infrastructures are at the core of a vast project of neoliberal redistribution, leading to exclusion and impoverishment, while cementing Hindu majoritarian power. Most worryingly, the ever-shifting ambiguity of maximum governance elides contradiction and short circuits failure, presenting a predicament for democracy and dissent.