` The South Asian Politics Seminar by Brown, Harvard and MIT

Joint Sem­i­nar on South Asian Pol­i­tics co-sponsored by the Brown-India Initiative at the Wat­son Insti­tute at Brown Uni­ver­sity, the Weath­er­head Cen­ter for Inter­na­tional Affairs and South Asia Institute at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity, and the MIT Cen­ter for Inter­na­tional Studies

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.

Orga­niz­ing committee:

Chair:
Ashutosh Varsh­ney (Brown)

Co-Directors:
Patrick Heller (Brown)
Pre­rna Singh (Brown)
Akshay Mangla (Har­vard)
Vipin Narang (MIT)

Sem­i­nar series:
Fall 2015
Spring 2015
Fall 2014
Spring 2014
Fall 2013
Spring 2012
Fall 2011
Spring 2011
Fall 2010
Spring 2010
Fall 2009

  1. Maya Tudor

    (University of Oxford)

    TBD

    Friday, February 23, 2:00 PM, Brown University, Watson Institute, McKinney Conference Room, 111 Thayer St

    • Maya TudorHomepage

      This talk will be given at the Watson Institute on Brown University Campus


      111 Thayer St, Providence, RI
      McKinney Conference Room, Watson Institute


      Click here for a map and directions.

      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.

  2. Adam Auerbach

    (American University)

    Client Preferences in Broker Selection: Competition, Choice, and Informal Leadership in India's Urban Slums

    Friday, March 2, 2018, 2:00 PM, Harvard University, CGIS S050, 1730 Cambridge Street

    • Adam AuerbachHomepage

      This event will take place at Harvard University


      1730 Cambridge Street Cambridge, MA
      CGIS S050


      Click here for a map and directions.

      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.

  3. Nicholas Sambanis

    (University of Pennsylvania)

    TBD

    Friday, March 16, 2018, 2:00 PM, MIT, Lucian Pye Conference Room, E40-495, 1 Amherst Street Cambridge

    • Nicholas Sambanis Homepage

      This talk will be given at MIT

      Lucian Pye Conference Room, E40-495, 1 Amherst Street Cambridge


      Click here for a map and directions.

      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.

  4. Alison Post

    (UCA Berkeley)

    Infrastructure Networks and Urban Inequality: The Political Geography of Water Flows in Bangalore

    Friday, April 27, 2018, 2:00 PM, Harvard University, CGIS S345, 1730 Cambridge Street

    • Alison Post Homepage


      This talk will be given at Harvard University


      1730 Cambridge Street Cambridge, MA
      CGIS S345


      Click here for a map and directions.

      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.