Skip to main content

Exclusionary Regimes, Autocratization and Democracy

Priya Chacko

Priya Chacko is an Associate Professor of International Politics at the University of Adelaide. Prior to Adelaide, she worked at universities at Victoria University of Wellington and University of the Witwatersrand and was recently a non-resident fellow at the Perth-US Asia Centre and a visiting academic fellow at the Australia-India Institute. She is currently co-Editor-in-Chief of South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies. Her research focuses on how nationalism facilitates, and is used to justify, domestic and foreign policies;  how the international (global capitalist processes, transnational knowledge production etc.) shapes the domestic and vice versa; and the structural role of ideology in the social relations of production in capitalism. She has published widely on these topics with a focus on Indian politics and foreign policy and the Indo-Pacific region in journals like International Affairs, Political Geography, Modern Asian Studies and Journal of Contemporary Asia. Her current projects focus on 1) the rise and impact of authoritarian populist governance in India; 2) the transnational impact of autocratisation in India through strategies of transnational repression, legitimation, cooptation and cooperation; 3) the role of racial capitalism in shaping Australia’s international relations. She is a Chief Investigator on an Australian Research Council-funded project on populist political mobilisation through digital technologies in the Indian and Turkish diasporas in Australia.

Most recent relevant publications

How do you perceive the general topic, Democracy and Development, in relation to your hub?

The trend toward autocratisation amidst economic and ecological crises and growing economic inequality means that there is an urgent need to understand the role that intertwined processes of economic, political and social exclusion plays in undermining democracy today. Regimes that promote exclusionary developmental policies often create the conditions for the erosion of democracy. They also often resort to further exclusion through cooercion, censorship, and the centralisation power when faced discontent and resistance, thereby facilitating a turn to autocratisation. However, exclusionary regimes may also utilise selective forms of inclusion to bolster their claims to legitimacy and create autocratic regime resilience. I am particularly interested in how political, social and economic inequalities are justified and become socially accepted through rhetorical and material strategies of inclusion and exclusion. It is also increasingly apparent that exclusion and autocratisation have transnational dimensions impacting in various ways on emigrant populations, multilateral institutions, geopolitics and geoeconomics. These are all issues that require better understanding as more states autocratise.

How do you relate to other hubs?

There are important research questions that link all the hubs. Exclusionary and autocratic regimes often claim to be creating developmental policies that perform better than those of democratic regimes which are labelled as corrupt, divided and inefficient so it is important to evaluate how these claims are established, their consequences and how they are contested through political  mobilisation. Populist discourses and strategies have become central to political mobilisation in both democracies and autocratising states.  While the use of populist strategies can aid in democratisation and lead to inclusionary policies, when combined with ethnic nationalism populism tends to be exclusionary and facilitates autocratisation. Exclusion and autocratisation always generates resistance of various forms. How populist-nationalist discourses and strategies are being harnessed to both further autocratisation and exclusion, as well as challenge it, is a key question. Another important question is the role of technology in developmental policies, populist-nationalist political mobilisation and counter-mobilisation. Online surveillance, censorship and harassment and the digitisation of access to welfare and services are generating new types of exclusion and are being used to further authoritarian control. Technology also extends the reach of autocratising regimes beyond the borders of the nation-state. How technology can be democratised and harnessed to challenge exclusion and autocratisation are major challenges.

Priya Chacko