The Hidden History of the Secret Ballot

The Hidden History of the Secret Ballot

Edited by Romain Bertrand, Jean-Louis Briquet and Peter Pels
Distribution: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Domin
Publication date: 05/21/2007
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-21942-8
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We assume that voting by secret ballot is an essential and fundamental principle of representative democracy, but the social history of the secret ballot has rarely been investigated, until now. Voting by secret ballot is a surprisingly recent phenomenon in the West. While it may indeed offer opportunities for broader political participation, its introduction has sometimes limited the electorate, excluding certain groups, even precipitating violence. This original and thought-provoking volume questions the universality of the supposed link between voting secrecy and individual political freedom. Case studies from around the world and various historical eras combine anthropology, political theory, and social history to good effect. The result is an innovative analysis of the cultural history of the West's democratic norms and their imposition on other societies.

Author Bio

Romain Bertrand is Research Fellow, Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Internationales (CERI), Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, Paris.

Jean-Louis Briquet is Research Fellow, Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Internationales (CERI), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris.

Peter Pels is Professor of Anthropology, Leiden University, and Research Associate, Amsterdam School of Social Science Research.


“At a time when questions about the integrity of the voting process have been thrust into the center of political debate in the US-not to mention the developing world and postsocialist states-this volume's exploration of the assumptions underlying modern political systems and ideals could not be more relevant.”

“Every once in a while, a book comes along that is refreshingly original and makes one think anew about a 'well—known' topic. This is such a book: a breath of fresh air in the literature on democracy.”
 — Akhil Gupta, Stanford University

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Towards a Historical Ethnography of Voting Romain Bertrand, Jean Louis Briquet and Peter Pels
The Secret Ballot in Nineteenth-Century Britain Frank O'Gorman
Uses and Abuses of the Secret Ballot in the American Age of Reform John Crowley
'Chad Wars': Voting Machines and Democracy in the United States Denis Lacorne
Voting in India: Electoral Symbols, the Party System and the Collective Citizen Christophe Jaffrelot
Imagining Elections: Modernity, Mediation and the Secret Ballot in Late-Colonial Tanganyika Peter Pels
The Engineers of Democracy: Election Monitoring Agencies and Political Change in Post-Suharto Indonesia Romain Bertrand
Politics in the Village: Voting and Electoral Mobilisation in Rural Corsica Jean-Louis Briquet
From Acclamation to Secret Ballot: The Hybridisation of Voting Procedures in Mexican-Indian Communities David Recondo
Commodification of the Vote and Political Subjectivity in Africa: Reflections Based on the Case of Benin Richard Banégas
Return of the Repressed: Indonesia's New Order Elections Revisited John Pemberton
Elections in Iran: Religion, Nation and the Public Sphere Mahmoud Alinejad

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