“Can Electoral Quotas Advance Social Justice – and How Do We Know?”

This lecture is based on the work that won Francesca Refsum Jensenius the 2016 Chr. Michelsen Prize for the best work in development studies. The material is part of Social Justice through Inclusion: The Consequences of Electoral Quotas in India (forthcoming with Oxford University Press), her book manuscript about the longest-standing electoral quota systems in the world: The reserved seats for the Scheduled Castes (SCs, Dalits, India’s former `untouchables’) in India’s state assemblies. In this book, she combines evidence from various quantitative datasets from the period 1971–2007, archival work, and in-depth interviews with politicians, civil servants and voters across India in 2010 and 2011, to explore the effects of this extensive quota system, how the impact has changed over time, and how the various consequences relate to each other. 

Jensenius argues that the institutional design of the quota system has played an important role in incentivizing the integration of SCs into all the main political parties, while at the same time prevented the emergence of group representatives — understood as SC politicians acting for the interest of their group. In this lecture she will talk about key findings from the book, with a focus on how the institutional design of this quota policy both shapes its effects and can help us study these effects empirically.


This year's Chr. Michelsen Prize Lecture is part of the Bergen Exchanges on Law and Social Transformation 2016.