Joint Sem­i­nar on South Asian Pol­i­tics co-sponsored by the Saxena Center for Contemporary South Asia at Wat­son Insti­tute at Brown Uni­ver­sity, the Weath­er­head Cen­ter for Inter­na­tional Affairs and the 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 Saxena Center for Contemporary South Asia atWat­son 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)
Emmerich Davies (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

    • Homepage

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

      CGIS Knafel Building
      1737 Cambridge St. Cambridge, MA
      Room K354

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      Kanchan Chandra is Professor in the Department of Politics at New York University. She joined the NYU faculty in 2005 after four years on the faculty of the Department of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

      Since earning her Ph.D. in government at Harvard University (2000), she has established herself as a leader in her field and an innovative and energetic researcher. Her first book, Why Ethnic Parties Succeed: Patronage and Ethnic Headcounts in India (Cambridge UP, 2004), was hailed as a landmark study, combining theory and empirical analysis to examine why people choose to vote on the basis of one ethnic identity when alternatives are available, and the effects of that choice. A second book, Constructivist Theories of Politics, is forthcoming in 2012 by Oxford University Press. This book develops a new conceptual framework for thinking about how ethnic identities change and incorporates that framework into theorie of politics and economics. themes introduced in this book have also informed many of her articles, including “Cumulative Findings in the Study of Ethnic Politics,” APSA-CP, 12, No. 1 (2001); “Ethnic Parties and Democratic Stability,” Perspectives on Politics, 3, No. 2 (2005); and “What is Ethnic Identity and Does it Matter?” Annual Review of Political Science, 9 (2006). During her Guggenheim Fellowship term, she will be working on her next book, on the subject of ethnic diversity and democracy.

      Ms. Chandra’s many honors include Fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation, and her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the United States Institute of Peace.

    • VeenaD-sHomepage

      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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      Research Interests:
      Feminist movements, gender studies, sectarian violence, Medical Anthropology, post-Colonial and post-Structural theory; South Asia, Europe

      Summary of Research Activities: The abiding concerns of my research have been to understand the working of long time cultural logics in contemporary events as well as moments of rupture and recovery. My first book showed how one may address this through an examination of texts produced in local communities in which myth and history were embedded in each other. I have often learnt from ancient, medieval and contemporary texts in Sanskrit, Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali and Urdu either by posing these as interlocutors to some contemporary anthropological concerns or taking their voices on lease in order to traverse a different genealogy of the problem.

      In recent years I have worked intensively on questions of violence, social suffering. and subjectivity. My interest in these questions stems from questions on the institutional processes through which violence and suffering are produced as well as from questions on what it is to produce testimony to these events and to oneself. If societies hide from themselves the pain which is inflicted upon individuals as prices of belonging, then how do social sciences learn to receive this knowledge? I have tried to see the intricate relations between biography, autobiography and ethnography to frame many of these questions.

      Currently I am working on a project on burden of disease and health seeking behavior among the urban poor in Delhi. This work is being done in collaboration with colleagues from the disciplines of Economics and the Health Sciences in addition to anthropologists and sociologists. The collaborating institution in Delhi is the Institute of Socio-Economic Research in Development and Democracy. Presently we are trying to create a panel data for 250 households which tracks the relation between local ecology, health and family processes of decision making.

      Major Publications:

      • “Structure and Cognition: Aspects of Hindu Caste and Ritual”, Oxford University Press, 1977, 1982,1990, 1992, 1995, 1998.
      • “The Word and the World: Fantasy Symbol and Record”, Sage Publications, 1986 (Ed.)
      • “Mirrors of Violence: Communities, Riots and Survivors in South Asia”, Oxford, 1990, (Ed.) (Reissued in 1992, 1994).
      • “Critical Events: An Anthropological Perspective on Contemporary India”, Oxford University Press, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000.
      • “Social Suffering”, Special Issue of Daedalus (edited in collaboration with Arthur Kleinman and Margaret Lock). Winter, 1996. Also published as “Social Suffering”, University of California Press, 1998 and Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1998.
      • “Violence and Subjectivity” (co-edited), University of California Press, 2000.
      • “Social Science and Immunization” (co-edited). Economic and Political Weekly. Special Issue, February 2000.
    • 2011-golden-sHomepage

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

      1 Amherst Street
      Cambridge, MA
      Lucian Pye Conference Room E40-496

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      Miriam Golden is Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Los Angeles, where she teaches comparative politics, and for the 2011-12 academic year Visiting Senior Research Scholar at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics in the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Golden’s research interests center on problems of political accountability. She is working on a large project that compares the electoral underpinnings of political corruption in poor and wealthy democracies. Her work on this topic has been published in the American Journal of Political Science, World Politics, Economics & Politics, the British Journal of Political Science, and Comparative Political Studies. Between 1995 and 2000, she served as the Editor of the Newsletter of the American Political Science Association’s (APSA) Organized Section in Comparative Politics, and between 2000 and 2004, she was the Founding Director of the Center for Comparative and Global Research, housed in UCLA’s International Institute. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the International Growth Centre, and the Governments of Quebec and Canada.

    • tvpaul-sHomepage

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

      1 Amherst Street
      Cambridge, MA
      Lucian Pye Conference Room E40-496

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      T.V. PAUL is Director (Founding) of the McGill University/Université de Montreal Centre for International Peace and Security Studies (CIPSS) and James McGill Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, where he has been teaching since 1991. Paul specializes in International Relations, especially international security, regional security and South Asia. He received his undergraduate education from Kerala University, India; M.Phil in International Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Paul is the author or editor of 13 books. He has also published over 45 journal articles and book chapters and has lectured at universities and research institutions internationally. His authored books are: Globalization and the National Security State (with Norrin Ripsman), (Oxford University Press, 2010); The Tradition of Non-use of Nuclear Weapons (Stanford University Press, 2009); India in the World Order: Searching for Major Power Status (Cambridge University Press, 2002, with Baldev Nayar); Power versus Prudence: Why Nations Forgo Nuclear Weapons (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000); and Asymmetric Conflicts: War Initiation by Weaker Powers (Cambridge University Press, 1994). Paul is the editor or co-editor of the volumes: International Relations Theory and Regional Transformation (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming, 2012); South Asia’s Weak States: Understanding the Regional Insecurity Predicament (Stanford University Press, 2010); Complex Deterrence: Strategy In the Global Age (with Patrick M. Morgan and James J. Wirtz, University of Chicago Press, 2009); The India-Pakistan Conflict: An Enduring Rivalry (Cambridge University Press, 2005); Balance of Power: Theory and Practice in the 21st Century (with James Wirtz and Michel Fortmann, Stanford University Press, 2004); The Nation-State in Question (with G. John Ikenberry and John A. Hall, Princeton University Press, 2003); International Order and the Future of World Politics (with John A. Hall, Cambridge University Press, 1999, 2000 (twice), 2001, 2002 & 2003); and The Absolute Weapon Revisited: Nuclear Arms and the Emerging International Order (with Richard Harknett and James Wirtz, University of Michigan Press, 1998 & 2000). He serves as the editor of the Georgetown University Press book series: South Asia in World Affairs.