Six new Faculty members join the Political Science Department
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
By Anirudh S.K., ASP’23
Six new faculty members have joined the Department of Political Science as assistant professors this semester. This marks the first time non-visiting faculty members have joined the department since Professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s exit from Ashoka University.
Last semester The Edict published an article titled “Dept. of Political Science: A Thinning Herd.” It looked at the department’s dwindling faculty and how this affected students.
Following Prof. Mehta’s resignation, Professors Madhav Khosla and Neelanjan Sircar – both of the political science department – did not return to teach at Ashoka.
While four visiting faculty joined the department in Monsoon 2021, the number of UG23 students who declared political science as their major was about 40% lower than those from UG22. While this doesn’t prove anything, these developments do raise questions about the department’s future.
In contrast to its round of job talks from 2021, the department hired six new professors out of a pool of nine shortlisted applicants in early 2022. The new faculty are:
Prof. Chakrabarti’s main research interest is understanding the processes of civil war – specifically, “how order is created and maintained during civil war.”
In conversation with The Edict, he said that among the reasons why he joined Ashoka’s political science department were its enthusiastic and receptive students, faculty autonomy, and the presence of students who hail from parts of India that feature prominently in his research (like Kashmir and Nagaland, for example).
He said that while at Ashoka, his primary goals are “to embed himself in the social sciences in India” and “contributing eventually to institutionalizing Indian social science.”
Prof. Steuwer’s field of specialization is political philosophy. He is particularly interested in questions of discrimination and distributive justice. He said he was also drawn to Ashoka’s political science department by its students, as well as by the independence afforded to its faculty in how they teach and conduct research.
Speaking about his goals while at Ashoka, he said that he looks forward to his “research and teaching to bear and speak to problems that India as a society faces,” and to aid in making the PPE (politics, philosophy, and economics) major more attractive to prospective students.
Prof. Yadav specializes in rasa and in democratic theory. He told The Edict that his “main project is to theorize Indian politics starting with concepts that his Indian peers employ.”
He said he was drawn to Ashoka by the “fairly eclectic” nature of its political science department, the fact that it has under one roof “people with different methodological orientations,” and by the eagerness of its students to learn.
In the short-term, Prof. Yadav said he would like to focus on his teaching; as for his long-term goals at Ashoka, he said he is keen on encouraging the development of a “humanistic ethic” and the study of the humanities in his department.
Prof. Agnihotri’s research focuses on local governance and state capacity.
Prof. Kaur was an Affiliated Researcher with the Trivedi Centre for Political Data (TCPD) during the academic year 2019-2020. Her research focuses on “ethnicity and state strategy in the shadow of political violence, with a regional focus on South Asia and the British Empire.”
Prof. Wilson’s research focuses on “the politics of urban development and land property rights during China's rapid urbanization.”
Unlike the previous scholars, Prof. Wilson will only start teaching at Ashoka in Monsoon 2023. He is at present a postdoctoral research associate at Brown University.
ASP students and advisor delays
students completing their advanced major with the department have reported experiencing delays in receiving important communication from the department.
The Edict learned that while advanced majors were scheduled to have their thesis advisors allocated to them in mid-May this year, they received their allocations only in the first week of August. These students did not hear from the department over the summer break – a time they could have spent planning their theses with their advisors – about why this was getting delayed.
One thesis student in the political science department said that this delay, combined with the lack of a proposal-writing session held by the department, led to confusion among many students about how to begin working on their theses.
The Edict was unable to get quotes from Professor Agnihotri, Professor Kaur, and Professor Wilson.