‘Why does the figure of “the boss”, in its various guises, loom so large in South Asia? In answering this question, the authors of this engagingly written book make a path-breaking contribution to the study of South Asian politics.’—John Harriss, Simon Fraser University
‘Mafia’ has become an indigenous term in the Indian subcontinent. Like Italian mobsters, the South Asian ‘gangster politicians’ and violent entrepreneurs are known for inflicting brutal violence while simultaneously upholding vigilante justice—inspiring fear and fantasy. But the term also refers to the diffuse spheres of crime, business and politics operating within a shadow world that is popularly referred to as the rule of the mafia, or ‘Mafia Raj’.
Through intimate stories of the lives of powerful and aspiring bosses in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh—a rookie neta from Dhaka, a self-styled leader of the poor in Punjab, a henchman from Chittoor, small-time brokers in Lahore, a female don in western UP, a political bigshot in Nawabganj, and a legendary figure in the blood-ridden politics of South India—this book illustrates their personal struggles for sovereignty on their move up the ladder of success.
Ethnographically tracing the distinctive cultural milieu that such stories emerge from, the authors theorize what they call ‘the art of bossing’, providing nuanced ideas about crime, corruption and the lure of the strongman across the world.