Director of the Center for Contemporary South Asia Sol Goldman Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs
Ashutosh Varshney is Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences and Professor of Political Science at Brown University, where he also directs the Center for Contemporary South Asia. Previously, he taught at Harvard (1989-98) and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (2001-2008).
His books include Battles Half Won: India’s Improbable Democracy (2013), Collective Violence in Indonesia (2009), Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India (Yale 2002), India in the Era of Economic Reforms (1999), and Democracy, Development and the Countryside: Urban-Rural Struggles in India (Cambridge 1995).
The awards based on his research include the Guggenheim fellowship, the Carnegie Fellowship, the Gregory Luebbert Prize, and the Daniel Lerner Prize. He has also won research grants, among others, from the Ford Foundation, Social Science Research Council, U.S. Institute of Peace, Open Society Foundation, and Indian Council of Social Science Research.
His research and teaching cover three areas: Ethnicity and Nationalism; Political Economy of Development; and South Asian Politics and Political Economy. His academic papers have appeared in World Politics, Perspectives on Politics, Comparative Politics, Daedalus, Journal of Development Studies, World Development, Journal of Asian Studies, Journal of Democracy, Journal of East Asian Studies, Foreign Affairs, and Economic and Political Weekly. In addition to professional journals, he also contributes guest columns to newspapers and magazines and is a contributing editor to the Indian Express.
He is currently working on three projects; a multi-country project on cities and ethnic conflict; political economy of urbanization in India; and Indian politics and society between elections.
He served on the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Millennium Task Force on Poverty (2002-5). He has also served as an adviser to the World Bank, UNDP and the Club of Madrid.
Political Economy of Development
Tensions between markets and democracy in the developing world; the relationship between the type of polity and poverty alleviation; links between identity politics and economic reform; agricultural development and urban bias in the developing world; identity politics and entrepreneurialism; inequality in India and China.
Ethnic Identities and Conflict
Patterns of ethnic violence in the developing world; processes of identity formation; identity politics and democracy; rationality, ethnic conflict and nationalism
Emergence of citizenship rights, and decline of clientelism in patterns of urbanization; determinants of public service delivery in urban India; urbanization in India and China; comparison of corruption in contemporary India and the US in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Battles Half Won: India's Improbable Democracy (Penguin Viking, forthcoming in late 2013).
"How has Indian Federalism Done?" Studies in Indian Politics, June 2013.
"Two Banks of the Same River? Rising North-South Economic Divergence in India," in Partha Chatterjee and Ira Katznelson, eds., Anxieties of Democracy: Tocquevillean Reflections on India and the United States, Oxford University Press, 2012.
"Ethnic Diversity and Ethnic Tensions: An Interdisciplinary Perspective" (with Ravi Kanbur and Prem Rajaram), World Development, February 2011.
"Ethnocommunal Conflict, Islam and Civil Society," in Alfred Stepan, ed., Endangered Democracies, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.
"Creating Datasets in Information-Poor Environments: Patterns of Collective Violence in Indonesia (1990-2003)," with Rizal Panggabean and Mohammed Zulfan Tadjoeddin, Journal of East Asian Studies, Winter 2008.
"Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict," in Carles Boix and Susan Stokes, eds., Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics, Oxford University Press, 2007.
POLS 2330: Graduate Seminar on Politics in India
This seminar will present Indian politics in a comparative and theoretical framework. It will focus on four themes: British India and Indian Nationalism; India's democratic experience: politics of ethnic and religious diversity; and political economy, concentrating especially on India's economic rise. Readings include the classics of the subfield of Indian politics and political economy, but also quite a lot of recent scholarship.
POLS 2320: Graduate Seminar on Ethnic Conflict
What is ethnicity? What does it share with nationalism and in what respects is it different? Why do ethnic groups fight violently and kill wantonly, especially after living peacefully for a long time? Under what conditions do they manage their relations peacefully? When do they become nationalistic? Does ethnic conflict mark the politics of poor countries, or is it a wider phenomenon? Do people participate in ethnic insurgencies because of greed or grievance? Will ethnic groups disappear as modernity proceeds further? How should liberals look at nationalism? Is ethnicity, or ethnic conflict, best studied in a small-n, or a large-n, methodological frame?
POLS 1821O: Politics and Economic Development in Asia
It is widely accepted that development is not simply an economic phenomenon. Political processes are intimately tied up with economic development. Does the nature of the political system affect development? Does democracy slow down economic growth? What is the relationship between democracy and economic liberalism? As so many countries have embraced both political freedoms and market-oriented economic reforms, should one expect both to succeed equally? Why have some countries industrialized faster than others? Why do some countries do better at poverty alleviation than others? Why have some countries been successful in solving the problem of food production, while others have not been? Are their different paths to agrarian and industrial development? Since the Second World War, an enormous amount of intellectual effort has gone into understanding these issues. Asia has been at the heart of much of this literature. We will compare and contract the various Asian countries and models of development around themes identified above. The heaviest emphasis will be on China, India and South Korea.
POLS 1280: Politics, Economy and Society in India
Given its multi-religious, multi-linguistic and generally multi-cultural context, how has India defined its national identity? How was India transformed under British rule (1757-1947)? After independence in 1947, how has a liberal political order, defined by political equality, interacted with India's social order, defined by inequality and hierarchy? Is the former undermining the latter or the latter transforming the normal script of a democracy? Democracy does not last at low levels of income. In India, it has. How does one understand India's democratic longevity? What sort of economic transformation is underway? How does democracy interact with markets in its Indian setting?
India's Supreme Court hears up to 700 legal matters a day (vs. the 70 cases a year that the U.S. Supreme Court hears), according to Professor Ashutosh Varshney. Without the Court, he says, India would be “ruled frightfully by societal prejudices and government excesses.”
After backlash and protest from the invitation of Steve Bannon to The New Yorker's fall festival, the magazine withdrew his invitation. Professor Ashutosh Varshney argues that, though he finds them disturbing, Bannon's views should be heard and challenged. "Though deeply disturbing and wrong, this view shouldn’t – and can’t at this moment— be brushed aside."
In a conversation with Professor Ashutosh Varshney, author Walter Andersen speaks of the changing nature of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, how it was influenced by its different sarsangchalaks and the challenges that lie ahead of the organisation.
In an article on the world's fastest-growing major economy, Professor Ashutosh Varshney has drawn a striking analogy between contemporary India and the United States in the late 19th century, a time similarly characterized by a heady cocktail of growth, inequality and corruption.
Professor Ashutosh Varshney in The Indian Express, "A true meritocracy would place equally meritorious students from rural or urban settings, richer or poorer provinces, on an equal footing...China modifies the principle in the opposite direction. Its quota system gives preference to the privileged."
In an article on India's capital, Ashutosh Varshney, Director of the Center for Contemporary South Asia, calls the country an improbable democracy -- poor, impossibly heterogeneous and multicultural, and heavily reliant on its colonial history.