Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
MPA

Prerna Singh

Mahatma Gandhi Assistant Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs

Areas of Interest: Comparative politics, political economy of development, social welfare, identity politics including ethnic politics and nationalism, and gender politics, politics of South Asia and East Asia.

Biography

Prerna Singh is Mahatma Gandhi Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies and faculty fellow at the Watson Institute, and co-convenor of the Brown-Harvard-MIT Joint Seminar in South Asian Politics. She completed her PhD and MA from the Department of Politics at Princeton University, the tripos in social and political studies from Cambridge University, UK, and a BA (Honors) in economics from Delhi University. Prior to joining Brown, she taught in the Department of Government at Harvard University. She has also been a junior fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies and held a pre-doctoral research fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study for India (CASI) at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Her book, How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. Her articles have been published in several journals, including Comparative Political Studies,Comparative PoliticsWorld Development, World Politics, and Studies in Comparative International Development. Singh is also the co-editor of the Handbook of Indian Politics (Routledge 2013).

Research

Prerna Singh’s research interests include the comparative political economy of development, especially the politics of social welfare and public health; identity politics, including ethnic politics and nationalism, and gender politics; and the politics of South Asia and East Asia.

Her book, How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India, and related articles analyze the causes of variations in social welfare institutions and development by focusing on the dramatic divergences in social policies and outcomes across Indian provinces. Utilizing a combination of case studies based on archival analysis and field research together with statistical analyses, she highlights the relatively underemphasized role of the strength of affective attachments and the cohesiveness of community, showing how regions with a more powerful subnational identification are more likely to institute progressive social policies and witness higher welfare outcomes. In a new project Singh maintains her analytical focus on the question of variations in institutions of social welfare and development outcomes but shifts the unit of analysis to the national level, exploring why some countries are able to respond more effectively to public health crises than others, through a comparative historical analysis of the responses of the Chinese and Indian states to infectious diseases.

Singh has also maintained a distinct but related research agenda on identity politics -- in particular, on the causes and consequences of ethnic and national identifications. In a series of co-authored articles, she has sought to develop an institutional approach to ethnic politics showing how state institutions, notably the census, that differentiate ethnic categories, can in turn structure patterns of ethnic identification and competition and conflict. In a separate article, Singh uses a survey experiment to develop the central insight of her book about the way in which collective identities, in this case a shared national identification, can generate pro-social behavior, showing how the increased salience of a common national identity can foster the extension of altruism across even a deeply divisive interethnic boundary.

Publications 

How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India. (Cambridge University Press, Studies in Comparative Politics. Forthcoming 2015).

"Subnationalism and Social Development: A Comparative Analysis of Indian States," World Politics, Vol. 67, No. 3
(2015).

“The Ties that Bind: National Identity Salience and Pro-Social Behavior Toward the Ethnic Other”. Comparative Political Studies (Forthcoming in 2015). Co-authored with Volha Charnysh and Chris Lucas. Corresponding author.

Handbook of Indian Politics, Routledge (2013). Co-edited with Atul Kohli.

“Conceptualizing and Measuring Ethnic Politics: An Institutional Complement to Demographic, Behavioral and Cognitive Approaches”. Studies in Comparative International Development Volume 47, Number 3 (2012), 255-286, (Lead article). Co-authored with Evan Lieberman. Names are listed alphabetically. Both authors contributed equally.

“The Institutional Origins of Ethnic Violence.”Comparative Politics. Volume 45, Number 1, October 2012, pp. 1-24. (Lead article). Co-authored with Evan Lieberman. Names are listed alphabetically. Both authors contributed equally.

‘We-ness and Welfare: A Longitudinal Analysis of Social Development in Kerala, India’, World Development , Volume 39, Issue 2 (2011).

Teaching

Pro-seminar in Comparative Politics

Comparative politics research workshop

Nationalism and Ethnic Politics

Politics of India

State-society relations in China and India

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