This blog brings together stories, thoughts, and insights on the nature of informal politics and its impact on how governments are actually run.
My name is Ward Berenschot, I am a researcher studying various guises of informal politics in India and Indonesia. This blog has grown out of the fieldwork material I have collected over the last ten years. As much of informal politics can only be observed through ethnographic fieldwork, I developed this odd hobby of hanging around at late hours in strange places with various protagonists of informal politics – not just politicians, but also brokers, neighbourhood leaders, criminal types, bureaucrats, fixers, youth gangs, religious leaders, etc. Some of that material I use for my writings on ethnic violence, governance and election campaigns. I am currently writing a book on democratization and clientelism in Indonesia, and some of these blog posts relate to this book.
But I realized that a lot of the material that I gathered over the years might never end up in these publications. And, conversely, I realized that I often need to write a story down in a blog before I could think about what the story actually means. This blog is a scrapbook for all those stories, thoughts and experiences that I just need to write down somewhere. There will also be posts that contain musings on the theories and terminology that might serve to capture informal politics. Some posts concern comparisons and the difficult methodological questions about how to compare the nature of informal politics in different countries and regions. All post relate to the need to study informal politics and its impact.
As I mostly work on India and Indonesia (and, occasionally, Pakistan) the blog will unavoidably have a regional bias. That is not intentional: informal politics is everywhere, even if it takes different forms. I hope this blog’s focus widens over time. Ideally this blog serves to spark discussion and exchanges among people studying, following or experiencing informal politics.