First Cohort of CISLI Fellows (2017-2019)


The China India Scholar-Leaders Initiative (CISLI) is an initiative that will support 16 promising, young scholar-leaders using interdisciplinary research methods to grapple with complex questions related to prosperity and inequality in India and China, and want to expand their knowledge and research capacities in this area.

Learn more about the First Cohort of CISLI Fellows here.

“The Scholar-Leaders Initiative breaks new ground with scholars in India, China and the United States,” said ICI Senior Director Ashok Gurung. “We are developing a one-of-a-kind fellowship experience focused on supporting critical, interdisciplinary approaches to studying prosperity and inequality in the world today involving both young and established scholars worldwide.”

China India Scholar-Leaders Fellowship (2018-2020)
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This project builds on several successful project of the India China Institute, including the India China Fellows program, the India China Knowledge and Capacity Building Initiative, and the Emerging Scholars Initiative. It also seeks to foster the emerging field of India China Studies by supporting a new generation of Scholar-Leaders who are committed to producing critical new research, teaching and course development. The initiative involves strategic partnerships among select universities and research institutes in India and China, such as Peking University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, which are well positioned to sustain and advance India China studies. These efforts are being linked with the creation of new academic courses around a common research and teaching agenda on Prosperity and Inequality in India and China. ICI is partnering with The New School’s Global Studies program to host the course, and a group of former ICI Fellows from India and China will be important partners in helping ICI to develop this new curriculum for universities in India and China.

CISLI focuses on supporting scholars from underrepresented backgrounds (first-generation college graduates, women, ethnic minorities) as well as underrepresented fields of study, and aims to ensure they have equal access and opportunities to participate in global academic networks. By focusing on the theme of Prosperity and Inequality in India and China, ICI aims to further its commitment to research, teaching, and policy engagement that advances a focus on social justice and sustainable development. ICI is well positioned to focus on the development of young scholars through the issue of prosperity and inequality. By building on this work, ICI will strengthen these new scholarly networks and support interdisciplinary research that can promote better critical scholarship on inequality and prosperity.

Prosperity and Inequality in India and China

India and China have come to exemplify historically unprecedented economic growth accompanied by daunting new forms of inequality. While more people than ever before are being pulled out of poverty in these countries, the World Bank still estimates that more than 1.5 billion people in India and China earn less than US$2 a day, while the very wealthy are growing at staggering rates. At the same time, an emerging middle class is trapped between its aspirations to new heights and the unnerved by turbulent stock markets, housing bubbles, and precarious jobs.

Prosperity and inequality in India and China have their roots in economic reforms which began at the end of the 20th century. Post-Mao socio-economic reforms begun under Deng Xiaoping in China, while in India it was the opening of the economy, accompanied by efforts to privatize and liberalize public services and government sectors, during the mid-1980s. Inequalities in both countries have fueled regional disparities and led to a massive influx of rural populations into rapidly expanding urban centers. While these two countries have significantly different strategies, circumstances, cultural and political contexts,  the sheer scale of their interlinked transformations means that their responses to prosperity and inequality will impact how the world thinks about economic and social change in the years ahead.

More About Prosperity and Inequality


In the 1950s the famous Nobel Prize-winning economist Simon Kuznets predicted that although economic growth will cause inequality in the short run, but in the long run it will reduce it. Yet even Kuznets himself recognized that his theories were a product of specific historical experiences. The thematic focus on Prosperity and Inequality seeks a deeper understanding of the dynamics created by rapid economic and social change in India and China. It aims to foster thoughtful research into the relation between prosperity and inequality, as well as emerging responses. Today, India and China must urgently revisit this relationship and ask whether rising prosperity reduces or exacerbate inequality, and with what consequences and over what period of time? Is inequality the price of prosperity? What would it take for all members of society prosper (or at a minimum have equal opportunities to prosper)? How are these societies responding to the challenges of economic growth in such diverse realms as policy governance, social theory, culture, and art?

This initiative seeks to investigate the relation between prosperity and inequality at all levels of society. Accordingly, some of the topics to be explored might include:

  • > Research into how prosperity relates to inequalities along economic (e.g. income or wealth), social (e.g. caste, religion, nationality, social origin) and/or spatial (e.g. regional, rural-urban) dimensions.
  • > Explorations of attempts at redistribution, whether in the service of social justice, social harmony, revenue sharing, or economic efficiency.
  • > Investigations into the meaning of prosperity and inequality, including issues of language, semantics, and subjective understandings in cultural context.
  • > Understanding the relation between value and values, including why and how certain groups of persons are deemed valuable to society, or the changing symbolic and material role of workers, peasants, “the masses” and “the people.”
  • > Examining cultural responses to the emergence of new forms of distinction that comes with prosperity, such as the nouveau riche, or the fuerdai phenomenon in China, new forms of consumption and social differentiation.
  • > Studies of class formation and change today, including the relation between caste and class, “underclasses”, and transnational class.
  • > Inquiries into spatial manifestations of prosperity and inequality, such as gated communities, urban villages, luxury housing, villas, slums, but also land development and related revenue and financing issues.
  • > Analysis of aesthetic responses to prosperity and inequality, such as artistic production and reception, curatorial practices, thematic engagements with the themes, heritage and preservation, and the role of art itself in the production and reproduction of prosperity and inequality.
  • > Research into the relation between environmental sustainability and prosperity and inequality, including climate change, pollution, urban ecology, and the relation between human and nonhuman communities.


These are just a few of the ways in which applicants can propose to study the relation between prosperity and inequality. We encourage creative, rigorous, and interdisciplinary approaches. By assembling a new generation of scholars, we strive to provide fresh insights, create new connections, and support engaged research into one of the most pressing areas for understanding change today in India, China and beyond.


New School Team

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Ashok Gurung

Ashok Gurung is the Senior Director of the India China Institute (ICI) and is Professor of Practice in the Julien J. Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs at The New School.  A founding director of ICI, he is responsible for establishing and the overall development, management, and coordination of ICI programs and projects in India, China, and the United States. A native of Nepal, he has taught several courses on development management, political and social issues in Nepal at The New School and is currently teaching the course, “Global Himalaya: Rethinking Culture and Ecology.”

Ashok has over twenty years of international development experience as an educator, researcher, manager, grant-maker, policy analyst, activist and training facilitator with civil society groups, academic institutions, foundations and multi-lateral organizations, and governments worldwide. Among various roles, he was the program officer for the International Fellowships Program, the largest global leadership initiative ($280 million) of the Ford Foundation. Ashok holds a MA in International Affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, a BA in International Service and Development from World College West in Petaluma, California, and a Certificate in Norwegian Culture and Society from the University of Oslo in Oslo, Norway.

Jonathan Bach

Jonathan Bach is Chair of the interdisciplinary Global Studies undergraduate program and Associate Professor of International Affairs at The New School in New York. His current work concerns post-socialist transition and in Germany and China and how these societies appropriate their past, as well as a project on the evolution of special economic zones as urban spaces. Bach draws from anthropology, sociology and political science to explore how received notions of sovereignty, space and identity are reformulated through micro-level practices. He has also written on information technology and organizational change, labor migration and citizenship, and political theory. Bach is the author of Between Sovereignty and Integration: German Foreign Policy and National Identity after 1989 (St. Martin’s Press 1999), and his articles have appeared in Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Politics, Public Culture, Theory, Culture and Society, Cultural Politics, Studies in Comparative and International Development, Geopolitics, and Philosophy and Social Science.

Jonathan Bach received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the Maxwell School, Syracuse University and has held visiting positions at Brown and Columbia Universities, the Center for Literature and Cultural Studies in Berlin and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Studies in Hamburg. He has held post-doctoral fellowships at Columbia University (ISERP) and Harvard University (Center for European Studies), where he is a faculty affiliate. He was previously the Associate Director of the Graduate Program in International Affairs at The New School. Bach is a faculty affiliate at Columbia University’s Center on Organizational Innovation and the New School Department of Anthropology.



Partners in China & India

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Liu Jian

Liu Jian is a Senior Professor at the National Institute of International Strategy, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). Adjudicator of the Chinese National Social Science Funds. M. A. in the area of Indian literature at Peking University in 1981. Ford Foundation fellow with the Department of South Asian Studies, the University of Wisconsin at Madison from 1988 to 1991. His special fields of expertise are Indian and South Asian Studies. His main publications include Yindu Wenming (Indian Civilization), co-author, 2004,2008; Erzhanhou Nanya Guojia Duiwai Guanxi Yanjiu (Foreign Policies and International Relations of South Asian Countries, co-author, 2007); Mengjialaguo (Bangladesh, 2010);On Gitanjali:Writings on Indian Culture and Literature (2016). He has also published a number of research papers in both Chinese and English in the fields of Indian and South Asian studies. He has served recently as a compiler of and contributor to the Encyclopedia of China-India Cultural Contacts (2016).


Yao Yang

Yang Yao is Dean and Professor at the National School of Development (NSD), Peking University. Professor Yao received his bachelor and master degrees from Peking University and his Ph.D. in development economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He started working in CCER at the end of 1996 immediately after he obtained his Ph.D. He has served as consultant for the World Bank, International Finance Corporation, and the Asian Development Bank. He is the founding editor of CCER’s house journal China Economic Quarterly (in Chinese) and serves as associate editor for Agricultural Economics, Journal of Rural Cooperatives, and several Chinese journals. His primary research interests focus on China’s institutional transformation and rural development. He has published widely in domestic and international journals and coauthored/edited several books including China’s Economic Reform and Growth (Routledge, 2010) and Economic Reform and Institutional Innovation (Gale Asia/Cengage Learning, 2009). He is also a prolific writer in popular Chinese newspapers and magazines.


Xiaobo Zhang

Xiaobo Zhang is a distinguished chair professor of economics at the National School of Development, Peking University. He has conducted research on a wide range of topics, such as rural industrialization, income distribution, and sex ratio imbalance. He has published articles in top economics journals, such as Journal of Political Economy, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Journal of Development Economics, Journal of Economics Perspective, Journal of International Economics, and Journal of Public Economics. His recent books include Governing Rapid Growth in China: Equity and Institutions (2009), Regional Inequality in China: Trends, Explanations and Policy Responses (2009), Narratives of Chinese Economic Reforms: How Does China Cross the River? (2010), and Oxford Companion to the Economics of China (2014). He is a Chief Editor of China Economic Review. He received Sun Yefang Prize for Economics Research in China (the most prestigious award in the field of economics in China) and Zhang Peigang Development Economics Outstanding Achievement Award (the highest award in the field of development economics).


Mahendra P. Lama

Mahendra P Lama is a Professor of South Asian Economies in the School of International Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Till very recently he was the Pro Vice Chancellor of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi which is the world’s largest educational institution in the arena of Open and Distance Learning. Professor Lama was also the Founding Vice Chancellor of the newly established Central University of Sikkim in India created by an act of Parliament in 2007 and became the youngest Vice Chancellor of a National University in India. Sikkim University today is acclaimed as one of the best among the new set of national universities in India. He has been acclaimed for his vision, innovative management and designing of academic progarmmes and linking the local youth and human, natural and intellectual resources with national and global world. Besides authoring and editing 22 books, he has extensively worked on the issues of energy, trade, investment and energy cooperation, sustainable development and human security in South Asia . He has also worked on the issues of hills and mountains. He has closely worked with the top regional institutions in South Asia. His most recent work is a book entitled “Human Security in India: Discourse, Practices and Policy Implications” (UPL, 2010).


Nimmi Kurian

Nimmi Kurian is associate professor at the Centre for Policy Research. Nimmi is interested in foreign policy, in particular India’s border states, China’s domestic politics, Indian and Chinese approaches to regionalism, and transborder governance. Her recent work includes studies of the accountability debates in India and China, post-Mao policy shifts in China’s regional development, and Northeast India and its neighbourhood. She has also produced a critical reading of the transborder subregion and an agenda for India-China water dialogue. Nimmi is part of the Asian Borderlands Research Initiative, a network of scholars interested in the reconfiguration of theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of borderlands. She is also part of the BCIM Forum, a subregional Track-II initiative of research institutes from India, China, Bangladesh, and Myanmar to study processes of marginalisation in the peripheries and suggest actionable and alternate imaginaries. Kurian received her Ph.D. in International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her past publications include Emerging China and India’s Policy Options and the co-edited Welfare States and the Future. Her latest book is entitled India-China Borderlands: Conversations beyond the Centre (Sage, 2014).


Varaprasad Dolla

Varaprasad S. Dolla is Professor in Chinese Studies at the Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Currently he teaches two courses on Chinese history and science & technology. He taught courses on Chinese foreign policy and political system earlier. He has been guiding M. Phil and doctoral students in their research for the last 19 years. He was ASIA (Asian Studies in Asia) Fellow at Peking University, Beijing in 2004. He was also Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University. He has published a book titled Science and Technology in Contemporary China: Interrogating Policies and Progress (Cambridge University Press, 2014), research papers in journals and books besides presenting papers in the international and national conferences.



Generous support for this new initiative is provided by   fordlogo

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