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:

Ashutosh Varsh­ney (Brown)

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

    • pratab
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      This talk will be given at the Watson Institute at Brown University

      111 Thayer Street Providence, RI
      Joukowsky Forum (room 155)

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      Pratap Bhanu Mehta is President, Center for Policy Research, New Delhi. He is also a participant in the Global Faculty Program of NYU Law School. He was previously Visiting Professor of Government at Harvard University; Associate Professor of Government and of Social Studies at Harvard. He was also Professor of Philosophy and of Law and Governance at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and has held a visting appointment at the University of Pennsylvania. His areas of research include, political theory, constitutional law, society and politics in India, governance and political economy and international affairs. Mehta has a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University (St. John’s College); and a Ph.D in Politics from Princeton University.

      He has has also done extensive public policy work. He was Member-Convenor of the Prime Minister of India’s National Knowledge Commission; Member of the Supreme Court appointed on Regulating Indian Universities and has authored a number of papers and reports for leading Government of India and International Agencies, including the World Bank, UNRISD, DFID. He has advised a number of instituions in Higher Education. He is on the Board of Governors of International Development Research Council (IDRC), and numerous other academic institutions, including National Institute of Finance and Public Policy. He is also a member of the WEF’s Global Governance Council. He is a prolific columnist and editorial consultant to the Indian Express. His columns have also appearred in a number of national and international dailies including the Financial Times, Telegraph, International Herald Tribune, The Hindu, Outlook etc. He is also on the Editorial Board of numerous journals including the American Political Science Review, Journal of Democracy and India and Global Affairs.

    • jaffrelot_v
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      This talk will be given at the Weatherhead Center at Harvard University

      CGIS Knafel Building
      1737 Cambridge St. Cambridge, MA
      Bowie-Vernon Room (K262)

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      Christophe Jaffrelot is Alliance Visiting Professor at Columbia University and Senior research fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS, a research centre he has directed from 2000 to 2008.

      His main areas of interest are the theories of nationalism and democracy, the mobilization of the lower castes and Dalits in India, the Hindu nationalist movement and ethnic conflicts in Pakistan. He has written extensively on these topics. Among his publications, the most prominent are The Hindu nationalist movement and Indian politics, New York/Columbia University Press; Londres/Hurst; New Delhi/Penguin India, 1996, 582 p. , Dr Ambedkar and Untouchability. Analysing and Fighting Caste, New York/Columbia University Press; Londres/Hurst; New Delhi/Permanent Black, 2004, 205 p., India’s Silent Revolution – The Rise of the Low Castes in North India, New York/Columbia University Press; Londres/Hurst; New Delhi/Permanent Black, 2003, 505 p. as (co-)editor, with T. B. Hansen, The BJP and the compulsions of politics in India, Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2001, 393 p., A History of Pakistan and its origins, London, Anthem Press, 2004, 341 p., Pakistan : Nationalism Without a Nation, Delhi, Manohar ; Londres/New York, Zed Books, 2002, 352 p.,The Sangh Parivar. A reader, Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2005, 445 p., with Alain Dieckhoff Revisiting nationalism. Theories and processes, Londres/ Hurst; New York/Palgrave, 2005, 277 p., Hindu nationalism. A reader, New Delhi/Permanent Black et Princeton (Nj)/ Princeton University Press, 2007, 391 p. , with P. van der Veer, Patterns of middle class consumption in China and India, New Delhi, Sage, 2008, 300 p. and with Laurent Gayer, Armed Militias of South Asia, London/Hurst, New York/Columbia University Press, New Delhi/Foundation Books, 2009 (forthcoming)

      Christophe Jaffrelot is a Member of the editorial boards of Critique internationale, CEMOTI, Cultures et Conflits, Nations and nationalism, International Political Sociology, Third Frame and India Review and a Member of the scientific councils of Südasien Institut, Heidelberg, of Zentrum Moderner Orient / Centre for Modern Oriental Studies, Berlin, the Encyclopaedia of Mass Violence and of Sciences Po Master of Public Affairs.

      He is a permanent Consultant at the “Direction de la Prospective” of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and chairs the Scientific council of the six research centers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and CNRS in Asia.

      He teaches two courses at Sciences Po (“Colonial India”, with Jacques Pouchepadass and “Democracy and nationalism in South Asia”), c-heads the summer school of the CERIUM (University of Montreal) on India and gives one course at Columbia this semester on “Democracy in India”.

    • tellis_color_medium
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      This talk will be given at the MIT Center for International Studies

      Building E40 Room 496
      1 Amherst Street     Cambridge, MA

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      Ashley J. Tellis is Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, specializing in international security, defense, and Asian strategic issues. While on assignment to the US Department of State as Senior Adviser to the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, he was intimately involved in negotiating the civil nuclear agreement with India. Previously he was commissioned into the Foreign Service and served as Senior Adviser to the Ambassador at the US Embassy in New Delhi. He also served on the National Security Council staff as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Strategic Planning and Southwest Asia.

      Prior to his government service, Tellis was Senior Policy Analyst at the RAND Corporation and Professor of Policy Analysis at the RAND Graduate School. He is the author of India’s Emerging Nuclear Posture (2001) and co-author of Interpreting China’s Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future (2000). He is the Research Director of the Strategic Asia program at NBR and co-editor of the six most recent annual volumes, including this year’s Strategic Asia 2009–10: Economic Meltdown and Geopolitical Stability. In addition to numerous Carnegie and RAND reports, his academic publications have appeared in many edited volumes and journals. He earned his PhD in Political Science from the University of Chicago. He also holds an MA in Political Science from the University of Chicago and both BA and MA degrees in Economics from the University of Bombay. Dr. Tellis is a member of several professional organizations related to defense and international studies including the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the United States Naval Institute and the Navy League of the United States.

    • Paikiasothy_Saravanamuttu

      This talk will be given at MIT organized by the Center for International Studies

      Building E51 Room 095
      70 Memorial Drive     Cambridge, MA

      Entrance at the Amherst Street/Wadsworth Street intersection.

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      A leading public intellectual in Sri Lanka, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu is Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Colombo. Alongside, he is Co-Convenor of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and Member of the Advisory Board of the Berghof Foundation for Peace Support. He was a founder Member of the Board of the Sri Lanka Chapter of Transparency International, and has also been on the World Bank’s External Panel to review its Post Conflict Performance Indicators. In 2004, he was an Eisenhower fellow in the United States.

      He received his Ph.D. and bachelor’s degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

    • Fotini
      Personal homepage

      This talk will be given at the Weatherhead Center at Harvard University

      Room change,
      the new room is:

      CGIS South Building
      1730 Cambridge St. Cambridge, MA
      Room S153

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      Fotini Christia is Assistant Professor in Political Science at MIT. She completed her PhD in Public Policy at Harvard University in June 2008, where she was a recipient of research fellowships from the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Her research interests deal with issues of ethnicity and civil wars and her dissertation addresses the question of civil war alliances. Fotini has published work on the role of local elites in civil wars in Comparative Politics, and is presently working on two field projects of an experimental design, one in Afghanistan and one in Bosnia, that address the effects of institutions of cooperation in post-conflict, multi-ethnic societies. Fotini has also worked in the Middle East and Central Asia and has written opinion pieces on her experiences from Afghanistan, Iran, the West Bank and Gaza and Uzbekistan for Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. She graduated magna cum laude with a joint BA in Economics-Operations Research from Columbia College and a Masters in International Affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

Jayal Seminar postponed (new date t.b.a.)
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