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

    • knewmanHomepage Newman

      Homepage Attewell

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

      111 Thayer Street Providence, RI
      Joukowsky Forum, Room 155

      Click here for a map and directions.

      Sociologist Katherine S. Newman is a widely published expert on poverty and the working poor who led major interdisciplinary initiatives at Princeton and Harvard universities before being named James B. Knapp Dean of the Johns Hopkins University Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences in 2010.

      A distinguished scholar, veteran academic leader, and talented and dedicated educator, Newman assumed the deanship on Sept. 1 and holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Sociology.

      Newman was previously the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes ‘41 Professor in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Sociology at Princeton University, where she had taught since 2004. From 2007 to 2010, she directed Princeton’s university-wide Institute for International and Regional Studies. She founded and chaired Princeton’s joint doctoral program in social policy, sociology, politics, and psychology.

      Previously, during eight years at Harvard University, she was the first dean of social science at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. While there, she designed a university-wide research program in the social sciences, promoting collaboration among faculty from the arts and sciences, public health, medicine, law and education. She also has served on the faculties of Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley.

      Newman, who has written 10 books and five edited volumes thus far, has focused much of her scholarly work on the lives of the working poor and mobility up and down the economic ladder. She also has investigated the impact of tax policy on the poor, the history of public opinion’s impact on poverty policy, school violence, and the impact of globalization on young people in Italy, Spain, Japan, and South Africa, among other issues.

      Newman graduated in 1975 from the University of California, San Diego, where she majored in sociology and philosophy. She earned a PhD in anthropology in 1979 from the University of California, Berkeley.

      Paul Attewell is a professor of sociology and of urban education at the CUNY Graduate Center. His research interests include the sociology of education, inequality and stratification, and social impacts of information technology.

      His most recent book, Passing the Torch: Does Higher Education for the Disadvantaged Pay Off Across the Generations? (co-authored with Professor David E. Lavin), won the Outstanding Book award of the American Educational Research Association in 2009, and also the 2009 Grawemeyer Prize in education.

      Professor Attewell has also published research on the policy of requiring more advanced coursework from high school students, and on whether remedial education works for college students. His current research projects include a qualitative evaluation of inner city public school students who are being paid monetary incentives to do well on standardized tests, and a separate project that looks at college graduation, stopping out, and dropping out among working and commuter undergraduates. He has received grants to support his research from the National Science Foundation, The Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Spencer Foundation.

      Attewell earned his doctorate in sociology from the University of California-San Diego in 1978. Before joining the Graduate Center faculty, he taught at the University of California-Santa Cruz; the State University of New York, Stony Brook; and Stern Graduate School of Business at New York University.

    • bhavnaniHomepage

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

      CGIS Knafel Building
      1737 Cambridge St. Cambridge, MA
      Room K401

      Click here for a map and directions.

      Rikhil R. Bhavnani is a Visiting Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic politics, Princeton University, and will join the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an Assistant Professor of Political Science in the Fall of 2011. He has a PhD in political science, and an MA in economics, from Stanford University, and an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics.

      Rikhil is currently working on two broad research agendas, on political inequality and corruption. His work examines the causes and effects of — and tests the efficacy of remedies for — both phenomena. He does so using plausibly exogenous variation due to historical accidents, and natural, survey and field experiments. Other projects examine the effects of migration on political participation and violence in India. His research is characterized by interests in political and economic development and South Asia, and by a close attention to causality. His work has appeared in the American Political Science Review and has been supported by the National Science Foundation.

    • PaulHomepage

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

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

      Click here and here for a map and directions.

      Paul Staniland is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago, where he co-directs the Program on International Security Policy. His research interests are in civil war, international security, and ethnic politics, primarily in South Asia. His current book project and related articles examine organizational cohesion and fragmentation in insurgent groups. Other work studies civil-military relations, pro-state paramilitarism in civil wars, Indian and Pakistani foreign and internal security policy, and the politics of insurgency and terrorism.

      His work has been published in Civil Wars, Comparative Political Studies, International Security, Security Studies, and the Washington Quarterly, among others. His research has been funded by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, MIT Center for International Studies, Yale University’s MacMillan Center, and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and Minda de Gunzberg Center for European Studies.

    • Ganguly_for_websiteHomepage

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

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

      Click here and here for a map and directions.

      Sumit Ganguly is a Professor of Political Science and holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations at Indiana University in Bloomington. He has previously been on the faculty of James Madison College of Michigan State University, Hunter College of the City University of New York and the University of Texas at Austin. He has also taught at Columbia University in New York City. He has also been a Fellow and a Guest Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC and a Visiting Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. His research and writing focused on South Asia has been supported by grants from the Asia Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the W. Alton Jones Foundation. He serves on the editorial boards of Asian Affairs, Asian Survey, Current History, the Journal of Democracy and Security Studies. He is also the founding editor of both the India Review and Asian Security, two referred journals published by Taylor and Francis, London. Professor Ganguly is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of a twenty books on South Asia.

      His most recent books are Fearful Symmetry: India and Pakistan Under the Shadow of Nuclear Weapons (co-authored with Devin Hagerty) jointly published by Oxford University Press (New Delhi) and the University of Washington Press (Seattle) and India, Pakistan and the Bomb: Debating Nuclear Stability in South Asia (co-authored with S. Paul Kapur). He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, New York and the International Institute of Strategic Studies, London. Professor Ganguly has just completed a book (with Rahul Mukherji) India Since 1980, for Cambridge University Press and is at work on a single-authored book, Deadly Impasse: Indo-Pakistani relations at the Dawn of a New Century also for Cambridge University Press. He is also writing the Oxford Companion to Indian Foreign Policy for Oxford University Press, New Delhi.