` The South Asian Politics Seminar by Brown, Harvard and MIT

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. Pavithra Suryanarayan

    (Johns Hopkins)

    TBD

    Friday, February 3, 2017, 2:00 PM, Brown University, Watson Institute, Joukoswky Forum, 111 Thayer St

    • Pavithra SuryanarayanHomepage

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


      111 Thayer St, Providence, RI
      Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute


      Click here for a map and directions.

      Pavithra Suryanarayan is an assistant professor of International Political Economy at Johns Hopkins. Suryanarayan specializes in the comparative politics of developing countries with a focus on inequality, fiscal capacity, ethnic politics, and Indian politics; as well as political methodology with a focus on multilevel statistical techniques. My dissertation and journal articles demonstrate how different forms of inequality — economic, ethnic, social — structure political behavior, and impact redistributive institutions. She has been published in World Politics, American Journal of Political Science, Party Politics and Asian Survey

  2. George Perkovich and Toby Dalton

    (Carnegie Endowment)

    Not War, Not Peace: Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism

    Friday, February 10, 2017, 2:00 PM, MIT, Lucian Pye Conference Room, E40-495, 1 Amherst Street Cambridge

    • George PerkovichHomepage
      Toby DaltonHomepage

      This event will take place at MIT in the Lucian Pye Conference Room


      1 Amherst Street Cambridge, MA
      Lucian Pye Conference Room, E40-495


      Click here for a map and directions.

      George Perkovich is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He works primarily on nuclear strategy and nonproliferation issues, and on South Asian security. Toby Dalton is co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment. An expert on nonproliferation and nuclear energy, his work addresses regional security challenges and the evolution of the global nuclear order. Perkovich and Dalton co-wrote Not War, Not Peace: Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism, A comprehensive assessment of the violent and non-violent options available to India to deter and respond to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan. The book discusses The Mumbai blasts of 1993, the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, Mumbai 26/11- cross-border terrorism has continued unabated. What can India do to motivate Pakistan to do more to prevent such attacks? In the nuclear times that we live in, where a military counter-attack could escalate to destruction beyond imagination, overt warfare is clearly not an option.

  3. Emmerich Davies Escobar

    (Harvard University)

    TBD

    Friday, March 10, 2017, 2:00 PM, K050, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street

    • Emmerich Davies Escobar Homepage

      This talk will be given at Harvard University


      Room K050, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138


          
      Click here for a map and directions.

      Emmerich Davies Escobar is an Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard University. Emmerich Davies specializes in education policy and politics, the political economy of development, and the politics of service provision, with a regional focus on South Asia. His dissertation, for which he was awarded the National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, examines the growth of private elementary education in India and the consequences of using private rather than public schools on individuals' beliefs and civic engagement. Davies earned his B.A. in Economics and Political Science with honors from Stanford University in 2007, worked for two years for the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab in Kolkata, India, and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania.

  4. Yusuf Neggers

    (Brown University)

    TBD

    Friday, April 7, 2017, 2:00 PM, K050, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street

    • Yusuf Neggers Homepage

      This talk will be given at Harvard University


      Room K050, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street, MA


          
      Click here for a map and directions.

      Yusuf Neggers is a postdoctoral fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. He received a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard University, and also holds an MSc in International Political Economy from the London School of Economics and a BA in Mathematical Economic Analysis from Rice University. His research examines questions at the intersection of development economics and political economy, with a particular focus on the connections between political and bureaucratic accountability and the quality of public services.