Teaching

I see teaching and research as inherently symbiotic. Being able to teach well is the ultimate test of my own grasp of theories and pushes me to think about complex ideas in terms of their barest and most fundamental components. I find that demystify academic writing enables students to not just be consumers of knowledge, but also provides some understanding of how research is produced, and in the process, develop a more nuanced understanding of the events shaping the world around us. At the same time, intellectual exchanges with students, who are often not yet ingrained in the dogmas of academic debates, challenges my own understanding of the world. I am interested in teaching courses on Comparative Politics, Political Economy of Development, Ethnicity and Development, Indian Politics, Political Sociology, and Research Design. I was awarded the P. Terrence Hopmann Award for Excellence in Teaching at Brown University. A summary of my teaching evaluations are available here. I teach the following courses at Queen's.


Comparative Politics of Development (Graduate Seminar)

Expanding economic, social and political development remains one of the most significant challenge for the world in the 21st century. The course provides a broad understanding of current debates in the field of development, focusing in particular on the reasons why we observe significant differences in development outcomes across political units – countries, regions and states. We begin with a theoretical understanding of the concept of development and its philosophical underpinnings: what are the goals of development? Is there a relationship between development and freedom? Can the wellbeing of an individual be in conflict with the larger goals of the society? As we explore these questions, we will go through dominant theories that explain why some places enjoy higher levels of wellbeing than others, including modernization theory, the role of historical institutions, cross-class coalitions, political regimes, ethnic diversity, social capital, and the nature of state-building. We trace the history of the role of the modern state in the development process across these themes, both in advanced industrialized societies and emerging economies. The readings address the “big questions” in the field as well as micro-level issues and studies by drawing on disciplines of political science, sociology, economics, and anthropology. The last few weeks of the course will focus in particular on the challenges of development in multiethnic and postcolonial societies.


Ethnicity and Development (Undergraduate Seminar)

Ethnic diversity is consistently associated with poor public goods provision across countries. The negative relationship between social divisions and development has, in fact, been described as the “most powerful hypotheses in political economy”. But what exactly about diversity hinders social goods? This course will explore the dominant themes in the study of ethnicity and development based on insights from political science, philosophy, sociology, economics, social psychology, anthropology as well as popular writing. We begin with a theoretical understanding of the core concepts: What is development? What is the relationship between identity and ethnicity? What are the social-psychological foundations of identity? We distinguish between public goods and common-pool resources and explore the distinct channels through which diversity shapes cooperation between groups in the maintenance of common resources at the community level as well as how identity can be instrumental in shaping the policy preferences of the political elite and hence state provision of public goods. In the process, we will explore the role of shared culture and social norms, differential preferences of ethnic groups, the effect of group-differentiated rights, the effects of status inequality, and finally the historical role of ethnicity in the state-building process and its long-term effects on development. The themes discussed in the course reflect some of the most cutting-edge areas of contemporary research in the field of comparative politics and development.


Politics of India (Undergraduate Lecture)

This course provides an overview of the society, economy, and politics of India through the lens of some of the most influential theories in comparative politics. Each week, we will read seminal texts in the field along with empirical works on India that speak to the underlying theme. This format is designed to engage with key debates in the field as well as challenge the canonical texts (most of which are based on western democracies) by drawing on the experience of a large multiethnic society. We will focus on six key themes during the course of the semester – i) Colonialism and its legacies, ii) Nationalism and Nation-building, iii) State Formation and State Capacity, iv) Democratization, v) Identity and Ethnicity, and vi) Political Economy of Development. These themes reflect the most researched and debated ideas in the social sciences, as well as the key drivers that have shaped the trajectory of contemporary Indian society and politics. The following key questions will guide the course: How did a country with hundreds of ethnic, religious and linguistic cleavages manage its diversity when other multiethnic countries have disintegrated? How should we make sense of India’s democracy in the context of high rates of poverty, illiteracy, and diversity? How has the country’s history of colonialism shaped modern day institutions? How has Indian democracy responded to centuries of discrimination based on caste and gender? And how has the Indian state fared in promoting economic growth and social inclusion? This course is designed to be of interest to students of comparative politics and political sociology as well as students with a regional interest in India.

Header: Colombo, Sri Lanka