Provisional agency in India: Jugaad and legitimation of corruption

by Beatrice Jauregui

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By Beatrice JaureguiFull Article:onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/amet.12061/abstract


(image: [aesurl]/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/02/jauregui-figure-2-220px.jpg alt: Aspirants for a post as constable with the Uttar Pradesh Police wait in line to submit their applications, September 17, 2006. Photo by Beatrice Jauregui.

Aspirants for a post as constable with the Uttar Pradesh Police wait in line to submit their applications, September 17, 2006. Photo by Beatrice Jauregui.

) Aspirants for a post as constable with the Uttar Pradesh Police wait in line to submit their applications, September 17, 2006. Photo by Beatrice Jauregui.People in India deploy a variety of euphemisms for corruption, one of which is jugaad, which refers to goal-oriented improvisation, especially the use of informal social networks to advance one’s interests. But as often as it is conflated with corruption, jugaad is also conceived as necessary for “getting by” and even as virtuous practice. This ethnography of police practices in Uttar Pradesh shows how the contronymic character of jugaad emerges from widespread valuation of what I call “provisional agency,” which is both a capability to provide a social good and a temporary means of mobility geared toward a better future. Understanding practices that may be deemed “corrupt” as embodiments of provisional agency breaks down a clear distinction between virtue and vice and works to disaggregate a rigid inverse relationship between morality and power that assumes “elite” dominance can only be answered by resistance or acquiescence “from below.”