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Awarded PhD students

Awarded PhD students

Congratulations to our successful PhD students!

Jean-Thomas Martelli: PhD awarded 23 March 2018

“JNU is not Just Where you go, it’s What you Become”
Everyday Political Socialisation and Left Activism at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi

This thesis focuses on everyday contemporary campus politics in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. My central argument is that institutional territories of new social and ideological experimentation, such as this elite and predominantly social sciences and humanities campus, create the conditions for the reproduction of alternative political cultures, pertaining to the historical formation of such institutions. Current scholarship tends to discuss political choices of educated Indian youth in a context of caste, class, community and gender cleavages, as a result of parental upbringing or as a creative interpretation of phenomena such as liberalisation. The original contribution to knowledge of this work is to show that specific campus-based cultures need to be considered as distinct factors of politicisation, in particular when they are the training ground for under-represented political traditions. Through engaging critically with one’s social standings in light of contending left ideologies, young people in the JNU campus exhibit political activities and preferences that gradually distinguish them both from other youth and older generations. Consequently, features of political life are not only influenced by biographical components, but are renegotiated in light of selective political socialisation, carried on by one generation of activist to the next. Exposure to the Marxist-dominated activist culture of JNU fosters student politicisation and contributes to the widening of a political divide between conformistand hereticyouth. The study is based on sixteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in JNU premises. Results obtained are complemented by a textual analysis of pamphlet discourses written by student organisations and a survey of political attitudes on campus. These contribute to the debates on student politics and the political participation of the educated youth in India.

Raphaëlle Khan: PhD awarded 1 July 2017

India’s Search for Sovereignty: Independence and the International Order (1919-1961)

Despite a recent growing interest in India’s foreign policy, little is known about Indian understandings of the norm of sovereignty. This study examines India within a global and temporally dynamic perspective, between 1919 and 1961. While within Western policy circles India is generally considered to be a ‘sovereignty hawk’, i.e. extremely protective of state sovereignty, the research finds such discourse to be thinly historicised and obscuring a broader conception of sovereignty. By the same token, it challenges the common assumption that, upon independence, decolonised states merely incorporated existing Western norms. Through extensive archival research in New Delhi, Geneva, London and New York, this thesis uncovers how Indians developed their unique conceptions of sovereignty during India’s integration into international society, focusing on their arguments in four major multilateral fora: the League of Nations, the San Francisco Conference, the Commonwealth negotiations, and the United Nations.

This study represents a novel analysis of Indian conceptualisations of sovereignty through India’s historical involvement in multilateral arenas. It contributes theoretically and empirically to a growing literature on India in the world; on non-Western contributions to international organisations and the definition of international norms; and finally on the transition from the Empire to independent statehood. 


Zorawar Daulet Singh: PhD awarded 1 July 2017

 “Role conceptions and Indian Statecraft during the Cold War: An Analysis of Nehru and Indira Gandhi’s regional policies”

India’s foreign policy during the Cold War period was not simply an exercise in the preservation of India’s strategic independence. Analytical focus on a static and largely unchanging self-image of non-alignment has led scholars to downplay, or even overlook, what was in fact a dramatic evolution in Indian foreign policy behaviour during that period. Zorawar Daulet Singh’s work examines this understudied variation in India’s foreign policy. As a contribution to the field of foreign policy analysis, his thesis seeks to explicate India’s regional policy shift from the Nehru period to the Indira Gandhi period by engaging in extensively researched case studies using new archival and evidentiary material.

Arshima: PhD awarded 3 May 2017 

My doctoral thesis and first book project involve an interdisciplinary exploration of the theory and practice of accountability spanning state and society. The endeavour rests on a grounded theory study of the Mitanin programme, a community health worker scheme training 74,000 women in villages and slums across Chhattisgarh, initiated by the state government and led by civil society. In ethnographic fieldwork carried out over a year, I examine the efforts of programme workers at village, block, district and state-level on health and the social determinants of health. Activities are explored that have led to altered health-related behaviours in the community, reduced caste discrimination and gender-based violence, and improved rural sanitation and education. I also investigate social accountability efforts by Mitanin programme workers to tackle corruption in state nutrition schemes, campaign against the acquisition of tribal land, win a legal battle against the state forest department, and fight for elected leadership positions in institutions for local governance.

The study asks, how do rural citizens mobilise to demand health and social rights, and what underlies the responsiveness of the state for improved public service delivery? The research compares the Mitanin programme with the functioning of Panchayati Raj Institutions, the principal forum for social accountability in India’s villages, and with the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) programme in Bihar, a community health worker scheme operating across the country. Alongside a framework for analysis, a theory of change is developed to enable action for accountability. Altogether, the study suggests avenues to enhance public service delivery while highlighting an alternative pathway for strengthening decentralisation and democracy.

Nishant Kumar: PhD awarded 25 January 2017

In this work, Nishant Kumar primarily analysed the role of judiciary in the process of censorship in India. Focussing on the subject of 'Religious offense and censorship of publications', he examined the rationales and justifications given by courts to restrict freedom of speech and expression. He argued that the issues like public order, and the concern to protect religious sentimentalities of different communities from hurt in a secular democracy, form the bedrock on which the courts construct the legal justification for curtailment of right to freedom of speech and expression. In the process, the courts define the “reasonability” of restrictions, as advocated under article 19(2) of the constitution, very expansively, thereby allowing wide latitude for state intervention in the free exercise of this fundamental right. In a way, the position of the judiciary reflects a sense of legal patronage for state action against misuse of freedom of speech and expression, and it also exhibits a form of legal paternalism where the courts educates the citizens regarding the permissible limits of “matter” and “manner” of speech acts.

He further argued that this attitude of the judiciary, along with the ambiguity attached with the nature of statutory laws, and the structural and procedural limitations of the legal process creates a “web of censorship” that fails to provide the legal protection required for the free exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, despite these limitations, and increasing intervention of non-state actors in the process of censorship, the role of courts cannot be undermined. As the constitutional authority to interpret and define the scope of freedom of speech and expression, they continue to play a dominant role in the politics of censorship in Indian context. 

Anna Ruddock: PhD awarded 13 December 2016

Special Medicine: Producing Doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)

Anna Ruddock's thesis is an anthropological study of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), with a primary focus on undergraduate, or MBBS, education. Established in 1956, AIIMS is an enormous government-funded hospital, anomalous in the public healthcare landscape for employing many of India’s most respected doctors, who consistently provide a high standard of free or low-cost care to patients of low socioeconomic status. It also occupies an unassailable position atop the hierarchy of Indian medical education. Her analysis proceeds from an understanding of the All India Institute as simultaneously insulated from, permeated by, and complicit in the sociomedical landscape beyond its gates. Maintaining this perspective through a series of ethnographic chapters, she interrogates what is contained within the description of AIIMS and its students as ‘the best’. How is ‘the best’ defined and experienced? How does it inform articulations of aspiration and excellence, at global, national, and individual levels? And what implications might the ways in which India’s ‘best’ young doctors are produced contain for the politics and practice of health and medicine?

Vipul Dutta: PhD awarded 1 October 2016

Vipul Dutta’s doctoral dissertation examined the development of civil-military relations in the Indian sub-continent through the establishment and management of military service academies from the early to mid-twentieth century. The dissertation investigated patterns of recruitment, education and socialisation of Indian officers from the colonial to post-independence periods by focussing on select institutional spaces in India, Britain as well as Europe where they served or were trained. The dissertation charts an alternative history of the military in India, its division during Partition, as well as civilian-cum-governmental engagement with the military on issues of institutional, educational and training reform policies until 1960.

Ravi Shankar Jayaram: PhD awarded 1 August 2016

Caste in Space: The Bahujan Samaj Party and urban political regimes in Agra and the National Capital Region, 2007-2013

The electoral success of lower-caste political parties has transformed India’s democratic polity over the past two decades. This thesis is the outcome of extensive ethnographic investigations of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), India’s most successful Dalit [ex-Untouchable castes] party, in two cities of the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh (UP). The BSP commanded a majority of seats in the Uttar Pradesh state legislature between 2007 and 2012. The thesis seeks to investigate how the election of a Dalit-led party affected power relations between elite and subaltern social groups in Agra and Ghaziabad. The BSP state government significantly altered power relations in both cities in three ways. Firstly, the BSP inserted its bureaucratic cadre into key offices of government. Secondly, the BSP state government used its state resources to provide considerable welfare gains to core constituencies, through considerable achievements in housing security. Thirdly, the BSP administration established expansive pro-business regimes in both cities. Elite social groups were allowed to corner patronage benefits within the institutions of the party, whilst the party’s middle-class and working-class core voters were compensated with programmatic benefits in the form of police protection, welfare payments, neighbourhood development schemes, and housing security. There is, according to this thesis, considerable convergence between the material interests and the subjective identity perceptions informing caste-based political agency. The political science informing this work derives from the theoretical framework of the “Silent Revolution” (Jaffrelot, 2003). It is based on extensive elite interviews and ethnographic methods.

Daniel Kent-Carrasco: PhD awarded 1 March 2016

Daniel Kent CarrascoJayaprakash Narayan and lok niti: socialism, Gandhism and political cultures of protest in 20th Century India

This work is devoted to situating the life, ideas and work of Jayaprakash Narayan in the horizon of protest and emancipatory politics in twentieth century India. It intends to show that JP must be taken as one of the main architects and promoters of political cultures of protest in 20th century India, an ensemble of practices and forces acting within and outside the realm of institutional state politics, and involving political parties, anti-statist movements and non-governmental organizations. Despite being readily identified as a Gandhian socialist, my general argument in this dissertation is that JP´s life-long political engagement with the politics of protest and emancipation should be decoded through the logic of a political culture of protest he identified with lok niti, a formula that embraces diverse ideals, practices and political strands of opposition to the state brought together by a common aversion to and rejection of “power-politics” or raj niti. I will argue that Gandhi´s Non-Cooperation movement provided the event that created the fidelity that propelled JP into politics and that socialism was the framework through which he conceived of social transformation throughout his life. Indeed, socialism, Marxism and the ideas of Gandhi represented for JP little more than systems of interpretation that should be combined with others for the promotion of a truly revolutionary political practice of protest, which he defined as lok niti. 

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