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

    • swilkinsonPersonal homepage

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

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      Steven I. Wilkinson is Nilekani Professor of India and South Asian Studies and Professor of Political Science and International Affairs. He is currently working on a book on colonial legacies for democracy and conflict, as well as co-authoring a series of papers on the dynamics of partition violence in India and elsewhere.

      Much of his work focuses on India and ethnic violence. His book, Votes and Violence: electoral competition and ethnic riots in India (Cambridge, 2004) was co-winner of APSA’s Woodrow Wilson prize for the best book published in government, politics and international affairs in the previous year. He has also edited, with his former colleague Herbert Kitschelt, a book on clientelism entitled Patrons, Clients or Politics: Patterns of Political Accountability and Competition (Cambridge, 2007). He plans to extend his work on clientelism and the prospects for reform in a future project on state capacity in India and elsewhere.

      He received his undergraduate degree in History from the University of Edinburgh and an A.M. in History from Duke before getting his Ph.D. in Political Science from M.I.T. He taught previously at Duke and at the University of Chicago.

    • Lant PritchettPersonal homepage

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      University

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      Lant Pritchett is currently Professor of the Practice of International Development and Faculty Chair of the Masters in Public Policy in International Development (MPA/ID) program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Prior to returning the the Kennedy School, he was lead Socio-Economist in the Social Development group of the South Asia region of the World Bank, resident in Delhi, 2004-2007.

      He graduated from Brigham Young University in 1983 with a B.S. in Economics and in 1988 from MIT with a PhD in Economics.
      After leaving MIT Lant joined the World Bank, where has has held a number of positions in research complex, including as an adviser to Lawrence Summers when he was Vice President, and in the World Bank’s Operations in Indonesia and in India. From 2000 to 2004 Lant was a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

      Lant’s career as a economic researcher and development practitioner has produced three kinds of outputs. He has been a co-author and team member in producing books by the World Bank, including two World Development Reports (Infrastructure in 1994, and Making Services World for Poor People in 2004), Assessing Aid: What Works, What Doesn’t and Why in 1998, Better Health Systems fro India’s Poor: Findings, Analysis, and Options in 2003, and most recently Economic Growth in the 1990s: Learning from a Decade of Reforms in 2005.

      In addition he has authored (alone or with one of his 22 co-authors) over 50 individually signed papers in refereed journals, chapters in books, or articles, as least some of which are widely cited and he was (inordinately) pleased when his Google count (easy to do when one’s name is unique) passed 10,000. He has published widely in economics journals and in specialized journals on demography, education, and health.

      Finally, he has been engaged in policy dialogue and projects with governments and civil society around the world, both with the World Bank and as a consultant while at Harvard.

    • F-Shaikh----Nov-09Personal homepage

      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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      Farzana Shaikh is an Associate Fellow of the Asia Programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) in London, where she directs the Pakistan Study Group.

      She was born and brought up in Karachi, Pakistan, where she also received much of her education. After an MA in Political Science from the University of Karachi, she left Pakistan to pursue her studies at Columbia University in New York, where she was awarded a Ph.D in Political Science. Soon after she was elected to a Research Fellowship in Politics at Clare Hall Cambridge. Since then she has lectured at universities in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States, and most recently was named a Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She is a frequent commentator on current affairs in Pakistan for the media in Britain and abroad and continues to write extensively on the history and politics of Muslim South Asia. She is the author of Community and Consensus in Islam: Muslim representation in colonial India, 1860-1947 (Cambridge University Press, 1989). Her new book, Making Sense of Pakistan (Columbia University Press), was published in June 2009.

    • Thad Dunning
      Personal homepage

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

      CGIS Knafel Building
      1737 Cambridge St. Cambridge, MA
      Room K450

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      Thad Dunning is Associate Professor of Political Science and a research fellow at Yale’s Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies as well as the Institution for Social and Policy Studies. He studies comparative politics, political economy, and methodology. His book, Crude Democracy: Natural Resource Wealth and Political Regimes (2008, Cambridge University Press), contrasts the democratic and authoritarian effects of natural resource wealth. His current work on ethnic and other cleavages draws on field and natural experiments and qualitative fieldwork in Latin America, India, and Africa. Dunning has written on a range of methodological topics, including econometric corrections for selection effects and the use of natural experiments in the social sciences. His work has appeared in Comparative Political Studies, International Organization, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Political Analysis, Studies in Comparative International Development, and other journals. He received a Ph.D. degree in political science and an M.A. degree in economics from the University of California, Berkeley (2006).

    • Nawaz_ShujaPersonal homepage

      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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      Shuja Nawaz was made the first Director of the South Asia Center at The Atlantic Council of the United States in January 2009. He is a native of Pakistan, and is a political and strategic analyst who writes for leading newspapers and The Huffington Post, and speaks on current topics before civic groups, at think tanks, and on radio and television. He has worked on projects with RAND, the United States Institute of Peace, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, The Atlantic Council, and other leading think tanks on projects dealing with Pakistan and the Middle East. He has also briefed senior European and US civil and military officials on Afghanistan and Pakistan and testified before both houses of the US Congress.

      He was a newscaster and producer for Pakistan Television and covered the 1971 war with India on the Western Front. He has worked for the World Health Organization and has headed three separate divisions at the International Monetary Fund. He was also a Director at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. Mr. Nawaz was the Managing Editor and then Editor of Finance & Development, the multilingual quarterly of the IMF and the World Bank and on the Editorial Advisory Board of the World Bank Research Observer.

      His latest book is Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within (Oxford University Press 2008). He is also the author of FATA: A Most Dangerous Place (CSIS, Washington DC January 2009).