Economies and Societies Initiative

This initiative seeks to support critical scholarship on the multiple ways that “economy and society” are being theorized across both geographies and academic disciplines as they relate to India, China, or both. For some, the phrase “economy and society” evokes notions of Weberian charisma, labor valuation, and anthropology on “the gift.” For others, this phrase calls to mind the old formulation of “land, labor and capital.” For another group, what comes to mind is the role of neoliberal globalization and the emerging role of design in the marketing and branding of aesthetics, affect and subjectivity. And for yet another group of scholars, the question turns on the future role of Asian economies. This initiative aims to focus these broad but exciting discourses into a coherent picture of what it means to speak and write about “Economies and Societies” in the 21st century.


Over the past year, the India China Institute has convened a series of scholars deliberations around the theme of “Economies and Societies.” This included a half-day colloquium which brought together faculty from across The New School, as well as academics from Columbia, NYU and Asia. Building on these deliberations, ICI also put together an “Economy and Society Working Group,” composed of faculty from across The New School, to help develop this research initiative into a larger project. A subset of these faculty emerged following these initial meetings and has begun exploring this topic further under the title of The Spatial Politics of Work. In addition, a number of small research grants were awarded to faculty and students to further explore questions related to this emerging theme, and these scholars also form a vital part of the emerging intellectual community. Finally, ICI has launched a new series of meetings to further explore these questions, which we are calling the Colloquium on the Economies and Societies of India and China (CESIC).


Economies and Societies of India and China: A Research Colloquium (CESIC)

To deepen the engagement of mutual research interests among ICI-affiliated faculty both at the New School and in the New York City region, ICI will host a series of research colloquiums during the 2014-15 academic year under the title of Economies and Societies of India and China. This is a broad program to encourage research collaboration on the social and political formations that have both informed and emerged from the capitalisms of China and India. Research includes both contemporary and historical manifestations of capitalisms in India and China.

The Colloquium on the Economies and Societies of India and China (CESIC) will give a scholar the opportunity to present a recent research paper for comment and discussion at a monthly colloquium of invited participants. The scholar will circulate the paper in advance for participants to read and suggest feedback during the colloquium.

[CESIC participants click here]

The Spatial Politics of Work

As new modes of work are emerging in the twenty-first century, many have begun to ask whether we are entering a third industrial revolution. If yes, what are its parameters, limitations, and aspirations? What specific aspects of manufacturing and making are being reconfigured to create new urban forms? And who is benefitting and who is losing from the shifting spatial politics of work?

The Spatial Politics of Work (SPW) group has been engaging with these questions from the shared premise that contemporary problems and future possibilities are embedded within design-labor relations in Shanghai, Bangalore, and Brooklyn. Our group includes an architect, anthropologist, geographer, industrial designer, and political scientists all of whom have worked on questions of design, labor and space for many years. We are undertaking multi-modal research and forward thinking design interactions at specific work sites. We are able to draw on the India China Institute’s extensive network of scholars and creative-practitioners to deepen our research and speculative work. Through our collaborative work, we hope to deepen the investigation, sharpen the inquiry, and find meaningful ways to make legible complex design-labor issues that are powerfully affecting people, cities, and futures.

Members of the SPW research group include: Rama Chorpash, Mark Frazier, Victoria Hattam, Laura Liu, Brian McGrath, Christina Moon, Lei Ping, Vamsi Vakulabharanam.

For further information about the project please contact Professor Victoria Hattam, Department of Politics, at

Economies and Societies Funded Research

Thanks to the Starr Foundation, ICI was able to offer a limited number of exploratory research grants in 2013 to both faculty and students to investigate questions related to the theme of economies and societies.  This grant program supported and expanded existing scholarly work and helped the India China Institute explore the possibility of developing long-term research initiatives concerning “Economies and Societies” in the context of our ongoing work on India and China. Further details about this research is available below, or in this short summary of E&S Funded Research [pdf].

Faculty Research Details

Individual Faculty Awards ($2,500)

Fabio Parasecoli (New School for Public Engagement):  “Geographical Indications in India: Rural Development, Local Traditions and the Politics of Global Trade”

Abstract: Geographical Indications (GIs), a form of intellectual property that connects food products with their places of origin, are a contentious issue in global trade negotiations where India is playing an increasing and crucial role. My research will explore how India is implementing GIs in terms of rural development, social and economic values attributed to tradition, internal political debates, and international trade strategies. To do so, I propose to focus on the state of Karnataka, which has long traditions in rural production and has shown particular dynamism in this issue from the administrative and political points of view.

Sanjay Ruparelia (New School for Social Research): “Demanding a right to Basic Social Welfare: Contesting the Law in India and China”

Abstract: What explains the growing popular demand for a right to basic socioeconomic entitlements in India and China over the last decade? How are these rights conceptualized, justified and pursued in terms of their moral imaginaries, political strategies and social repertoires? Why have many struggles for better socioeconomic entitlements simultaneously demanded greater political transparency, responsiveness and accountability? What legal, administrative and policy reforms have various rights-based struggles won, by what means and under what conditions? Finally, where have such rights-based mobilizations been ineffective, and why? I propose to address these questions by studying the striking recent attempt of particular rights-based movements in India and China to use the law, as a technique and site of contestation, to secure basic socioeconomic entitlements. Arguably, the unexpected emergence of these movements represents a significant departure from the double movement that reshaped the economies and societies of Europe during its great transformation from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.

Vyjayanthi Rao (New School for Social Research): “Urban Density: Environment, Ethos and Opportunity”

Abstract: This project will extend my work on urban density, comparing the production of localities in India and China by examining the ways in which economic opportunities are created at local scales through the agglomeration of environmental conditions, policy frameworks and the emergent structures of community.


Joint Faculty Awards ($10,000)

Jonathan Bach (New School for Public Engagement), Tom Looser (East Asian Studies, New York University) [principals], Adriana Valdez Young (Parsons, The New School), Bridget Martin (Graduate student): “Socio-Economic Topologies: The Economic Zone and Urban Modernity in Asia”

Abstract: This project investigates the phenomenon of the economic zone as a signature socio-spatial form of modernity in contemporary Asia. It situates the Chinese and Indian experiences within the larger trajectory of the economic zone. While much has been written about economic zones from business and economic perspectives, few scholars have attempted to develop an integrated understanding that considers the zone’s economic dynamics as co-constitutive of its political, social, aesthetic, and cultural aspects. This interdisciplinary initiative takes as its subject the rapidly changing and multivalent logics of the economic zone as it manifests itself in different forms across China, India, and the broader Asian context. Our research examines the interlocking logics of market and state from a political and cultural perspective, and seeks to understand the types of spaces and lived experiences that are resulting from now over five decades of economic transformation, urbanization, and new encounters with modernity in Asia.


Student Research Details

Individual Student Awards ($1,500)

Yun-Chan Wu (New School for Social Research): “Banks and the Land Appropriation: Corruption and its Public Sphere”

Abstract: The project attempted here first seeks to limit the scope of research design by focusing only on the corruption of the banking system present in the privatization and re-appropriation of land. It also attempts to synthesize the second and third research approaches of corruption by placing the origin of the political effect of corruption (as a driving force shaping the public sphere) in the exercises of institution (the banking system and the predatory state). Moreover, since this study is designed as an integral part of my dissertation research, the findings of the case study of China and India are to be the empirical support for the theory of corruption I defend in my dissertation. Therefore, I am also looking for further research opportunity to develop this study from a critical review of the current literature on both China and India to a more robust study based on fieldworks and personal interviews in these two countries.

Carol Kai-Ju Wang (New School for Social Research): “HIV/AIDS and NGO’s in China”

Abstract: This project is situated at the intersection of three near-simultaneous phenomena in post-reform China: economic liberalization, a burgeoning rights movement, and the growth of an AIDS epidemic. At the same time, surging incidents of rights protests, occurring in response to the tectonic shifts of decades of state sponsored privatization, have made it clear that a new language of individuality, legal entitlement, and personal desire had begun to reshape individuals’ relationships to the transitioning state. AIDS activists are drawing from these recent discourses to reframe an epidemiological concern as a problem of human rights. My research focuses on these politically active HIV-positive individuals in reform-era China. I will rely on long-term qualitative research through semi-structured interviews as well as participant observation in professional and extracurricular settings with the key populations identified above. Additionally, I will conduct analyses of textual materials such as human rights handbooks, workshop agendas, conference programs, and written materials online.

Bahar Tabakoglu (New School for Social Research): “Social Constituents of Religious Politics: Islamist Labor Unionism in Turkey and Hindu Labor Unionism in India”

Abstract: In this research paper, my analysis of religious-nationalist labor unionism will rest on field research that I have conducted in Turkey (in Ankara and Istanbul, with several visits to the field during 2010-2012) and India (in New Delhi, July-August, 2011). The research design consists of a collection of primarily qualitative, and secondarily quantitative, data by using data collection instruments for both. I have conducted a total number of 90 in-depth interviews representing various constituents of the domain of labor unionism, and the structural tension between labor and capital circles. Therefore, within the aforementioned framework, the major pro-Islamist labor union confederation, HAKiS (The Confederation of Righteous Trade Unions) in Turkey, and Hindu nationalist labor union, BMS (Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh) in India constitute my main units of analysis. I have conducted semi-structured, open-ended in-depth interviews with administrators, leading figures, and members of these two major religious-oriented labor unions in Turkey and India.


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