Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Prerna Singh

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

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 was published by Cambridge University Press in their  Comparative Politics series earlier this year (http://www.cambridge.org/vu/academic/subjects/politics-international-relations/comparative-politics/how-solidarity-works-welfare-subnationalism-and-social-development-india?format=HB). The book is a comparative historical analysis of the very different evolution of social policy and welfare systems across states in India, and the critical role that a sense of social solidarity and political community has played therein.  She traces the striking divergences in education and health policy and outcomes across Indian states to differences in the strength of their subnational identification. The book was awarded the Woodrow Wilson prize by the American Political Science Association for the best book published in politics and international relations in the last year, and the Barrington Moore prize for the best book published in comparative historical sociology in the last year by the American Sociological Association. 

Singh's articles have been published in several journals, including Comparative Political Studies,Comparative Politics, World Development, World Politics, and Studies in Comparative International Development. Her article published in World Politics in July 2015, 'Subnationalism and Social Development: A Comparative Analysis of Indian States'  was awarded the Leubbert prize for the best article published in Comparative Politics in the last two years; the Mary Parker Follett prize for the best article published in Politics and History in the last year, both by the American Political Science Association, and the best article prize in the Sociology of Development by the American Sociological Association. Singh is also the co-editor of the Handbook of Indian Politics (Routledge 2013). She is presently working on a book that compares the differential success of interventions against disease across and within China and India. 

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 

Books

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

Woodrow Wilson prize for the best book published in politics and international relations in the last year by the American Political Science Association, Winner.

Barrington Moore prize for the best book published in comparative historical sociology in the last year by the American Sociological Association, Winner.

Edited volumes 

‘Special Issue: Ethnic Diversity and Public Goods Provision’. Co-edited with Matthias vom Hau. Comparative Political Studies, September 2016; 49 (10) and September 2016; 49 (11). 

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

Articles in Peer-reviewed Journals

The Violent Consequences of Ethnic Enumeration.  Forthcoming at World Politics. Co-authored with Evan Lieberman.

Ethnicity in Time: Politics, History, and the Relationship between Ethnic Diversity and Public Goods Provision’. Comparative Political Studies, September 2016; 49 (10). Co-authored with Matthias vom Hau. 

‘Subnationalism and Social Development: A Comparative Analysis of Indian States’. World Politics, Vol. 67, No. 3
, July 2015

Luebbert prize for the best article published in Comparative Politics in the last two years by the American Political Science Association, Winner.

Mary Parker Follett prize for the best article published in Politics and History in the last year by the American Political Science Association, Winner.

Outstanding faculty article in the Sociology of Development in the last year by the American Sociological Association, Winner.

‘The Ties that Bind: National Identity Salience and Pro-Social Behavior towards the Ethnic ‘other’’. Comparative Political Studies. March 2015 48: 267-300. Co-authored with Volha Charnysh and Christopher Lucas. 

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

“The Institutional Origins of Ethnic Violence”. Comparative Politics. Volume 45, Number 1 (2012), pp. 1-24. Co-authored with Evan Lieberman.

‘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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