The economic and strategic relevance of South Asia has enormously grown in recent years. While India’s economic story and South Asia’s struggle with terror are often noted, there is a great deal more to the region, which is of intellectual relevance.
Consider some of the “big” questions of politics, political economy and security, on which the South Asian region in general, and India in particular, offer engaging perspectives:
(1) Historically speaking, universal franchise democracy came to the West after the industrial revolution had been completed. In India, universal franchise was born at a time when the country was overwhelmingly agrarian and manufacturing constituted a mere 2–3% of GDP. What can we surmise about the simultaneous pursuit of economic transformation and democratic deepening from India’s experience? India-China comparisons are directly relevant here. More generally, as Africa and other Asian countries contemplate economic future, is democracy to be viewed as a political framework within which economic development ought to be pursued?
(2) Historically, manufacturing has always led an economic revolution. It is as true of Europe and the US as of East Asia. In India, high-tech services, primarily export-based, have led the boom, and are now wrestling with an international economic downturn. What are the larger lessons of a services-led economic transformation?
(3) India’s democracy has functioned amidst one of the most hierarchical social orders the world has witnessed: viz., caste system. Has the equality principle of democracy undermined the caste system, or have caste inequalities changed the script of Indian democracy, forcing it to differ significantly from the Western democratic experience?
(4) Serious regional disparities mark virtually the entire region. In India, compared to the northern and eastern states, the southern and western states have not only boomed economically, but their human development performance has been markedly superior. In Pakistan, Punjab continues to be far ahead of the other regions. How does one explain such variations? Are there larger social science theories at stake? Can newer theories be developed?
(5) The shadow of security over politics and economics is now dark and deep. Why has terrorism taken such roots in Pakistan? What is it about the polity or society of Pakistan that has provided a home to terrorism? Given how terrorism works, can it spread to India in a significant way?
(6) The security situation in Afghanistan is now the center of international attention. How does one understand the security problems of Afghanistan? Why is establishing order such a monumental task in Afghanistan and also a tall task in Pakistan?
(7) Security has a so-called softer side. Human rights of some minority groups have been compromised for the sake of “nation-building” all over the region. This is true even in India, which has functioned as a democracy for over six decades. With far greater intensity, the same issues crop up in Sri Lanka, once the most vigorous democracy in the developing world. Why have South Asian democracies found it hard to develop more robust human rights regimes? Is it a South Asian problem, or a more generic problem of democracies faced with insurgencies?
(8) In a related vein, raging debates over the rule of law have taken place all over South Asia. In India, the debate has also covered the role of public interest litigation. Why have South Asian societies struggled so hard to establish a reliable legal regime? Is it simply a function of low incomes and unstable security environments? Or, do cultural and sociological norms seriously clash with the rule of law? Do we have theories that tell us how rule of law got institutionalized in the richer countries? Can those theories be used for understanding South Asia?
(9) South Asia as a region has been one of the original homes of the NGO movement in the world. Some of the world’s most respected non-governmental organizations have been working in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India. What can we learn about what kinds of NGOs succeed and what types fail? Is the learning region-specific, or is it portable?
(10) India’s democratic longevity has coexisted with substantial party fractionalization. Over the last twenty years, Delhi has been ruled by coalition governments. Such coalitions have normally marked polities that have proportional representation, not first-past-the-post systems, which tend to produce fewer parties in power. How do we understand India’s party fractionalization?
The list above is not exhaustive, but these are some of the issues that this annual seminar series, concentrating on contemporary South Asian politics and political economy, will investigate. Some sessions of the seminar will be entirely academic, but other sessions will conceptualized as a Habermasian public sphere, where academics alone do not monopolize discourse. Rather, public figures — from politics, business, journalism, security and NGO sector– and academic researchers and students will engage in a sustained conversation. Knowledge, inevitably, has many facets.
This seminar is a joint effort of, and is funded by, four institutions of the Boston-Providence area: the Brown-India Initiative at the Watson Institute at Brown, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the South Asia Institute both at Harvard and the MIT Center for International Studies. It will be co-directed by faculty working on different aspects of South Asian politics and political economy in each of these universities. The location of the seminar will alternate between Brown, Harvard and MIT. A detailed program for the series can be found below.
(University of Oxford)
Friday, February 23, 2:00 PM, Brown University, Watson Institute, McKinney Conference Room, 111 Thayer St
111 Thayer St, Providence, RI
McKinney Conference Room, Watson Institute
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Maya Tudor is an Associate Professor of Government and Public Policy in the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. Dr. Maya Tudor’s research investigates the origins of stable, democratic and effective states across the developing world, with a particular emphasis upon South Asia. She was educated at Stanford University (BA in Economics) and Princeton University (MPA in Development Studies and PhD in Politics and Public Policy). She has held Fellowships at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Oxford University’s Centre for the Study of Inequality and Democracy. Her book, 'The Promise of Power' (Cambridge University Press, 2013), was based upon her 2010 dissertation, which won the American Political Science Association’s Gabriel Almond Prize for the Best Dissertation in Comparative Politics. The book investigates the origins of India and Pakistan’s puzzling regime divergence in the aftermath of colonial independence. She is also the author of articles in Comparative Politics, Journal of Democracy, and Party Politics. Before embarking on an academic career, Maya worked as a Special Assistant to Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz at the World Bank, at UNICEF, in the United States Senate, and at the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee. A dual citizen of Germany and the United States, she has lived and worked in Bangladesh, Germany, France, India, Kenya, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Friday, March 2, 2018, 2:00 PM, Harvard University, CGIS S050, 1730 Cambridge Street
1730 Cambridge Street Cambridge, MA
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Adam Auerbach is an Assistant Professor in the School of International Service at American University. Auerbach’s research and teaching interests include the political economy of development, local governance and representation, and comparative political institutions, with a regional focus on South Asia and India in particular. His first book project examines informal community governance and development in India’s urban slums. The project draws on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork, archival research, and an original survey he designed and administered in two north Indian cities. His research has been supported by the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Social Science Research Council, Fulbright-Hays, and the National Science Foundation. He received the 2013 Best Fieldwork Award from the Comparative Democratization Section of APSA, the 2014 Best Dissertation Award from the Urban Politics Section of APSA, and the 2015 Gabriel A. Almond Award for best dissertation in comparative politics. His work appears or is forthcoming in Contemporary South Asia, World Development, and World Politics.
(University of Pennsylvania)
Friday, March 16, 2018, 2:00 PM, MIT, Lucian Pye Conference Room, E40-495, 1 Amherst Street Cambridge
Lucian Pye Conference Room, E40-495, 1 Amherst Street Cambridge
Nicholas Sambanis is a Professor of Political Science at The University of Pennsylvania. His research is focused on civil wars, ethnic conflict, and international relations. His articles have been published in the American Political Science Review, World Politics, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, and other journals. With Paul Collier, he conducted the first large nested research project in the civil war literature, combining quantitative and qualitative research in Understanding Civil War: Evidence and Analysis, two volumes published by the World Bank in 2005. Since 2000, Sambanis has been working on questions of intervention with a focus on peacekeeping and peacebuilding. Together with Michael Doyle, he published the first analysis of the effectiveness of United Nations peacekeeping operations in an article published in the American Political Science Review in 2000. Their analysis was expanded in Making War and Building Peace, a book about United Nations peacebuilding, published by Princeton University Press in 2006. Currently, Sambanis is working on projects related to the causes and management of conflicts over self-determination as well as on a book on international relations theory, where he and co-authors are applying insights from social psychological theories of identity formation to explain nation-building and war.
Friday, April 27, 2018, 2:00 PM, Harvard University, CGIS S345, 1730 Cambridge Street
1730 Cambridge Street Cambridge, MA
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Alison Post is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Global Metropolitan Studies, and Co-Director of the Global Metropolitan Studies Program. Her research lies at the intersection of comparative urban politics and comparative political economy, with regional emphases on Latin America and South Asia. It examines several related themes: the politics of regulating privatized infrastructure, the varying ability of subnational governments to provide infrastructure services effectively following the decentralization wave of the 1990s, and the politics of urban policy more broadly. She is the author of Foreign and Domestic Investment in Argentina: The Politics of Privatized Infrastructure(Cambridge University Press, 2014) and articles in Comparative Politics, Governance,Perspectives on Politics, Politics & Society, Studies in Comparative International Development, World Development, and other outlets. She has been named a Clarence Stone Scholar (an early career award) by the Urban Politics Section of the American Political Science Association, and received U.C. Berkeley's Carol D. Soc award for mentoring graduate students. Her doctoral dissertation, “Liquid Assets and Fluid Contracts: Explaining the Uneven Effects of Water and Sanitation Privatization,” won the 2009 William Anderson award from the American Political Science Association for the best dissertation in the general field of federalism, intergovernmental relations, state or local politics. She has served as a a Marshall Scholar, a postdoctoral research scholar with the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University, a Visiting Researcher at the Centro de Estudios de Estado y Sociedad in Buenos Aires and the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (E.C.L.A.C.) in Santiago, and as a Researcher at L.S.E. Urban Research in London.