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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Mr Brendan Donegan

MA Politics (Warwick)


Brendan Donegan
Department of Development Studies

Teaching Fellow

Mr Brendan Donegan
Email address:
Thesis title:
Spaces for negotiation and mass action: an anthropological study of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (People’s Health Movement), the National Rural Health Mission and the right to health movement in India
Internal Supervisors


Ethnography of social movements, civil society-state relations, NGO politics in India; development policy and practice; anthropology of public health.

PhD Research

The basic question my thesis deals with is: ‘How does civil society interact with the state?’ I take a case study of the interaction of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA) community with the government of India. I deal with this case study in a number of ways, but the main focus is on a particular accountability mechanism developed and used by the JSA, utilised by them as a mass mobilisation technique across the country on at least 4 occasions between 2000 and 2009: survey of health services and denial of health care cases, followed by public hearings. This accountability mechanism/mobilisation technique was used in the mobilisation for the first National Health Assembly in 2000, the Right to Healthcare campaign of JSA in 2003-4, the People’s Rural Health Watch (PRHW) of JSA in 2006-7, and the Community-based Monitoring of Health Services (CbM) of the National Rural Health Mission of the Government of India in 2007-8.

At a theoretical level, there are a large number of points I want to make about contemporary civil society in India, and related to these is a core argument about how we think of civil society. This core argument is that we gain a better understanding of civil society if we think of identities as constituting each other rather as being distinct, monad-like objects bouncing off each other like atoms. This core argument makes it necessary for me to problematise and rework the basic question of civil society-state interaction at the heart of my thesis, because ‘civil society’ and ‘the state’ are themselves identities formed in this way. I am currently using Actor-Network Theory to think this through.

My fieldwork in India concluded in March 2009. It involved learning basic Marathi (the official language of the state of Maharashtra in western India), interviews with a range of people, participant observation of formal and informal meetings in a variety of settings, gathering key documents and assisting in documentation of the Community-based Monitoring of Health Services and other programmes.

PhD Conferences

  • Donegan, Brendan (2009) "Spaces for negotiation and mass action within the National Rural Health Mission: ‘Community monitoring plus’ and people’s organisations in tribal areas of Maharashtra”, Postgraduate Seminar Series, Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India 24 February 2009.
  • Donegan, Brendan (2009) "Latour, ethnography and the Indian People's Health Movement", Engaged voices? Ethnographic approaches toward social movements, Institute for European Ethnology, University of Munster, Munster, Germany 27 July 2009.
  • Donegan, Brendan (2009) "Find the everyday elsewhere: Situating the global in the talk of an Indian health activist", South Asian Anthropologists Group (SAAG) 2009, Genealogies of thought and ‘Indian Sociology’, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London 22 September 2009.
  • Donegan, Brendan (Forthcoming) "The Pure Gift and Dirty Money:
    Factionalism and Talk About Voluntarism Among Indian Activists", LSE South Asia Seminars, London School of Economics, London November 2009.