8 Mar

Edinburgh to seek stronger ties with JNU

By Professor Wilfried Swenden – Senior Lecturer in Politics – School of Social and Political Science; Co-Director – Centre of South Asian Studies

Territoriality, citizenship, migration and global governance provided the main points of focus for an interdisciplinary workshop at  Jawaharlal Nehru University in late February.

The workshop was a collaborative event between JNU and Edinburgh, underlining the importance of our links with India.

The event was supported by Edinburgh’s Global Initiative Fund and was the last in a series of February events linking the University of Edinburgh with various academic institutes in India.


The workshop built research and staff links between both institutions on issues of mutual interest across the social sciences and humanities.

The Edinburgh delegation was truly interdisciplinary, bringing together two lawyers, a political scientist, a human geographer, a sociologist and a social anthropologist.

The first day of the workshop was filled with fifteen minute presentations, designed to explore areas of future research between both institutions.  It is hoped that these will lead to the submission of joint research proposals later in the year.

During the second day, we all benefited and learned from the rich and varied contributions of six JNU PhD students which covered a variety of topics from a comparative analysis of the politics and performance of state leaders in India’s 29 states to the racial and religious identities in the Siddi and Hadrami communities of Hyderabad and the political economy of fair trade in India.

This was followed by a discussion on deepening institutional collaboration between Edinburgh (in the particular the Centre for South Asian Studies, represented by myself and Dr Ruwanpura and the Institute for the Advanced Studies in the Humanities, represented by its Director, Prof Jo Shaw).

In addition to plans for joint research projects, we discussed the prospect of a Memorandum of Agreement with JNU and the option of student and staff exchanges, IASH-SSPS postdoctoral fellowships, the organisation of a joint MOOC and the publication of PhD students papers in The South Asianist, a peer-reviewed graduate journal on South Asia, coordinated by the Centre for South Asian Studies at Edinburgh.

Wilfried with Prof Asha Sarangi from JNU's Centre for Political Studies

Wilfried with Prof Asha Sarangi from JNU’s Centre for Political Studies


Our presence was immensely appreciated by the local organisers in the wake of JNU’s targeting by the Indian government, especially following the arrest since 7 February of the JNUSU (student union) President and seven other JNU students on charges of sedition.

These arrests which have been widely interpreted as an attempt by the Indian government to impose its Hindu nationalist vision on India’s central universities threatens to undermine the integrity of academic research and freedom of expression.

Moving forward, we therefore very much wish and expect that our JNU partners will retain full freedom of expression and the right to voice democratic dissent which has been a hallmark of JNU’s history and reputation globally.