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ALICE Interview 05 – Peter deSouza – José Manuel Mendes – 05-12-2012

Interview in English.


Professor deSouza taught in the Political Science Department at Goa University for 16 years. He was head of the Department from 1996 to 2002. He was a member of the International Political Science Association’s Research Committees on Political Philosophy and Political Sociology and was a member to the University Grants Commission’s expert panel in Political Science from 1997 to 2000. Professor deSouza was awarded the British Council Visitorship to the U.K. where he made presentations at LSE, SOAS, Warwick and Sussex University in 1992. In March 2000 he was a Visiting Professor at Birkbeck College, London University, and in May 2001 he was a Visiting Scholar at the Taubman Centre, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is a member of the Editorial Committee for Indian Council for Social Science Research Survey on trends in Political Science and on the Indian Journal of Social Science Review. He was part of the team that did a review of Social Science Research Capacity in South Asia for the Social Science Research Council, New York. Professor deSouza has worked as a consultant for the World Bank on Rural Decentralisation, for the Ford Foundation on local government in India, and for the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International-IDEA) in preparing their handbook on Democracy Assessment.


  • We will start with your personal trajectory and the decision, after 1975, the year of Emergency in India, to move from a career in Biochemistry and to enroll in Political Science.
  • In your book chapter “‘Appeasement of Minorities’ and Multiculturalism: The Indian Debate” you say that “the protection of the life, liberty and property of the minority cannot be ensured through the exercise of strengthening minority rights per se but can be ensured by the general protection of human rights”. Could you elaborate on this, the specific case of India and how it could apply to Europe.
  • The role of constitutional order in guaranteeing minority rights.
  • Civil disobedience as an inheritance of Gandhi, today in India and its influence in some social movements in Europe.
  • The question of Goa and the Indian State.
  • The concept of demodiversity in Boaventura de Sousa Santos.
  • Your critique of visions of India democratic project as ethnocentric, compliant to the hegemonic dominant discourses on democracy or the excessive ideological baggage (example: creolisation).
  • What’s more important is your proposal that democracy in India can be analysed in isolation from an analysis of modernity. And this because as you affirm, “democracy, once introduced into a society, develops a dynamic of its own, producing a series of consequences, some of which may be unintended”.
  • Another very relevant factor in many of your writings is the specific role and influence of scale, not just only population and territory, but cultural diversity (India not just a nation-state but a civilisation state).
  • The parallel between a new political community in India and in Europe based on operating norms, rules and institutions. In Europe the thick political community lies at the level of states and the thin at the level of Europe. In India, there is an equal distribution between the union and the states. The role of political culture to sustain the institutions.
  • MOST IMPORTANT: the need to refashion ‘appropriate universals’ that meet the objections of suppressed voice and excluded presence, that are inclusive in their scope and that can be identified with by the populations that they are to govern and serve. The emergent political community, will require some universals.
  • size: populations that are internally plural
  • the role played by political elites: politics of identity (ethnic outbidding and the enemy within); insulate political leadership from criticism.
  • Study in democratic audit of South Asia: political discourse and democracy as part of popular commonsense. Democracy in South Asia: social upheaval: new ways of organizing collective life; new process of social interpretation and introduce a vibrant public sphere.
  • Contradiction in the core principles of IDEA (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance): more political equality may actually translate into less popular control.
  • The need to create a global discourse on an alternative system for the production and management of wealth. Counter discourse to market fundamentalism: The concept of trusteeship in Gandhi.