Dynastic dilemma in South Asia: influence, networks and shamefacedness

Ritanjan Das, Kenneth Bo Nielsen, Arild Engelsen Ruud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Downloads (Pure)


This article contributes to the growing literature on political dynasticism in contemporary South Asia and shifts the focus from the much-debated national level dynasties to the usually ignored dynasties operating at subnational and regional levels. Analytically, it investigates the ‘moment’ of succession, conceptualised as the period when new heirs are actively enrolled in a dynastic formation. Such moments of succession can be perilous moments for dynastic formations, potentially disrupting its routine functioning style. And yet, these moments allow a clear identification and opportunity for analysis of the specific dilemma that all political dynasties have to negotiate. This dilemma can be described as follows: how to reconcile (1) the need to project emerging dynastic heirs as extraordinary beings embodying the special qualities of the original dynast, with (2) the equally pressing need to downplay inherited dynastic privilege – conceptualised here using Louis Dumont’s idea of ‘shamefacedness’ – often portrayed as an illegitimate source of power and influence in postcolonial South Asia. A successful succession, as this article argues, relies on the ability to negotiate this dilemma. To demonstrate this negotiation in practice, the article analyses two cases of dynastic succession: Abhishek Banerjee in West Bengal, India and Serniabat Sadiq Abdullah in Barishal, Bangladesh
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalContemporary South Asia
Early online date10 Jul 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 10 Jul 2023


  • political dynasticism
  • dynastic dilemma
  • shamefacedness
  • Abhishek Banerjee
  • Serniabat Sadiq Abdullah

Cite this