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. Adam Ziegfeld

    (George Washintgon University)

    Why Regional Parties? Clientelism, Elites, and the Indian Party System

    Friday, February 5, 2016, 2:00 PM, Harvard, K354, CGIS Knafel, 1737 Cambridge Street

    • Adam ZiegfeldHomepage

      This talk will be given in the CGIS Knafel building at Harvard University


      1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA
      Room K354, CGIS Knafel


      Click here for a map and directions.

      Professor Ziegfeld’s teaching and research focus on electoral politics and the politics of South Asia. His current book project explains the electoral success of regional political parties in India, and his other work explores the impact of electoral rules, the causes of single-party dominance, and the role of candidates in shaping electoral outcomes.

  2. Dean Spears

    (RICE Institute)

    Neighborhood Sanitation and Infant Mortality

    Friday, February 26, 2016, 2:00 PM, Brown University, Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street

    • Dean SpearsHomepage

      This talk will be given in the Watson Institute at Brown University


      111 Thayer Street, Providence, RI
      Joukowsky Forum


      Click here for a map and directions.

      Dean Spears is the Executive Director of the RICE Institute. Dean’s research focuses on children’s health and human capital, which these days often means height, sanitation, and social forces in Indian households and villages. He has also done research about population issues in social welfare and about decision-making, in particular decision-making by poor people and the social psychology of interaction between richer and poorer people. Dean has worked in El Salvador, India, and South Africa. His is originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma and has an MA in International Studies from the University of Oklahoma. He has an MPA in Development Studies and a PhD in Economics from Princeton University. He is currently a visiting economist at the Economic and Planning Unit of the Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi.

  3. Christopher Clary

    (Brown University)

    Voters and Foreign Policy: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Pakistan

    Friday, March 4, 2016, 2:00 PM, S050, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street

    • Chris Clary Homepage

      This talk will be given at Harvard University


      Room S050, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138


          
      Click here for a map and directions.

      My research focuses on the sources of cooperation in interstate rivalries. I also study the causes and consequences of nuclear proliferation, U.S. defense policy, and the politics of South Asia. Previously, I was a predoctoral fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University (2014-2015), a Stanton Nuclear Security Predoctoral Fellow at the RAND Corporation in Washington, D.C. (2013-2014), and a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow in India (2009). I also served as country director for South Asian affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (2006–2009), a research associate at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. (2003–2005), and a research assistant at the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. (2001–2003). I received my PhD in Political Science from MIT, an MA in National Security Affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School, and a BA in History and International Studies from Wichita State University.

  4. Atul Kohli

    (Princeton University)

    East India Company Revisited

    Friday, April 22, 2016, 2:00 PM, S153, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street

    • Atul Kohli Homepage

      This talk will be given at Harvard University


      Room S153, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138


          
      Click here for a map and directions.

      Atul Kohli is the David K.E. Bruce Professor of International Affairs and Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. His principal research interests are in the areas of comparative political economy with a focus on the developing countries. He is the author of Poverty amid Plenty in the New India (2012) (a Foreign Affairs Best Book of 2012 on Asia and the Pacific); State-Directed Development: Political Power and Industrialization in the Global Periphery (2004) (winner of the Charles Levine Award (2005) of the International Political Science Association); Democracy and Discontent: India's Growing Crisis of Governability (1991); and The State and Poverty in India (1987). He has also edited eight volumes and published some sixty articles. His current research focuses on the topic of "imperialism and the developing world." Through much of his scholarship he has emphasized the role of states in the promotion of prosperity and equity in the developing world.