Ashutosh Varshney

Director of the Saxena Center for Contemporary South Asia, Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences
280 Brook Street, Room 238
Areas of Expertise Bureaucracy, Democracy & Elections, Ethnic Conflict & Civil War, Inequality & Poverty, Political Economy, Race, Identity & Ethnicity, State & Municipal Policy, Urban Policies & Politics, Urbanization
Areas of Interest lndian politics, political economy of development, ethnic conflict and nationalism


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 Saxena 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, 2013. Paperback edition, 2014;
Oxford University Press USA edition, forthcoming
Translated in Hindi, Oxford University Press, 2018. Tamil translation forthcoming.

Collective Violence in Indonesia,
Editor and contributor. Based in part on a special issue of the Journal of East Asian Studies, guest edited. Lynne Rienner, 2010.

Midnight’s Diaspora: Encounters with Salman Rushdie
Coeditor (with Daniel Herwitz) and contributor, University of Michigan Press, 2008; Penguin Viking, Delhi, 2009.
Based on a collective engagement of philosophers, social scientists, literary critics and novelists with Salman Rushdie’s ideas on nationalism, religion and identity, along with his response.

India and the Politics of Developing Countries: Essays in Memory of Myron Weiner
Editor and contributor. Based in part on a special issue of Asian Survey. Sage Publications, 2004.

Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India
Published in the US by Yale University Press, 2002, Second (paperback) edition, 2003. Published in India by Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2002, Second (paperback) edition, 2004, Fifth printing 2015. Published in Pakistan by Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2003. Translated in Hindi, 2005, and Bahasa Indonesia, 2010. Winner of the Gregory Luebbert Prize, American Political Science Association (APSA) for the best book in Comparative Politics in 2002-3; Choice Magazine’s outstanding academic book of 2002; Kiriyama Prize Notable, Non-fiction category, 2002.

India in the Era of Economic Reforms
Co-edited with Jeffrey Sachs and N. Bajpai. Oxford University Press, 1999; paperback edition, 2000.

Democracy, Development and the Countryside: Urban-Rural Struggles in India
Cambridge University Press, 1995; paperback edition, 1998. Winner of the Daniel Lerner Prize in its PhD dissertation form, MIT, 1990. Indian edition published by Foundation Books (Delhi) in 1996.

Beyond Urban Bias,
Editor and contributor. Based on a special issue of the Journal of Development Studies guest edited. Frank Cass, 1993. 2

Special Issues of Journals (Guest Edited):

Studies in Comparative International Development, “Populism and Nationalism”, June 2021.

World Development, “Ethnic Strife: A Multidisciplinary Perspective”, guest coedited with Ravi Kanbur (Cornell University) and Prem Rajaram (Central European University), February 2011

Journal of East Asian Studies, “Collective Violence in Indonesia”, October 2010

Journal of Development Studies, “Beyond Urban Bias”, July 1993.


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?

IAPA 0200 Foundations of Development

This course presents an interdisciplinary approach to the study of development. The course examines what constitutes development from a variety of different disciplinary perspectives, and the course examines how and in what context the term “development” itself has evolved over time. The goal of this course is to provide students an intellectual and conceptual grounding for study of a variety of issues surrounding development, whether in the global North or South.

Recent News

In a Wall Street Journal article, Ashutosh Varshney discusses how the historical and cultural context of southern India makes it resistant to Prime Minister Modi's appeals for a unified Hindu identity.
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