Pradeep Chhibber, Professor

Closed (1) Historical origins of religious violence in India

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

Why do people fight in the name of religion? Why does this persist in some regions and not in others?

These are the kinds of questions we are trying to answer through our project. Most of the existing work examines political, social and economic reasons behind ethnic conflict, but this ignores the fact that violence has persisted over time despite changes in political structures and social and economic institutions.
In this study, we take a long term view of religious violence in South Asia - predominantly India - and examine its historical causes and consequences from the colonial era (we start from about 1857). Our main focus is on whether certain British policies that treated people differently based on religion have any explanatory power over present day violence. Our research has implications for societies experiencing ethnic and religious conflict, whether there are conflict traps in society, and if so how to break out of them.

- Data cleaning, management
- Compiling data from sources and organising it on a spreadsheet
- Classification of textual data
- Data analysis
- Writing summary reports of data analysed

By the end of the engagement, we would expect that a student would have a better understanding of defining research questions and thinking about how integrate theory and research design. Besides this, the student will have gained considerable experience in data analysis and synthesis. Depending on the student's skills and interests, they may also start using statistical packages like R and Stata.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Anirvan Chowdhury, Graduate Student

Qualifications: While we don't require any specific skills, attention to detail would be really important as you will be reading a number of some fascinating old (think 1850s!) newspaper articles. Of course, there are a number of more recent reports too. Interest in developing countries, politics, history, and knowledge of South Asia would be a plus, but is not required. We could also use person(s) who have experience in programming and text analysis through R or Python.

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs

Closed (2) Decentralized Governance and Human Development

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

Does empowering local governments improve human development in a country with a federal structure? What happens to functioning of local governments when there is a political change at a higher level of government?

Decentralized governance was pushed forward as a panacea for human development in the 90s. Yet, after two decades the results are mixed. Bringing governance closer to people does not necessarily lead to better human development. But why? This project seeks to answer this questions in the context of West Bengal, India – a state which was a pioneer in empowering local governments and bringing governance closer to the people.

The project looks at how local governments functioning has changed over a period of time by tracking electoral, social, and economic outcomes. We seek to explain the relationship between political changes and socio-economic outcomes over a span of 10 years.


Main duties: The main task will involve
1. cleaning and analyzing large datasets
2. web-scraping data
3. data visualization
4. writing summary reports

Skills gained: By the end of the project we hope to provide the student with a detailed sense of theoretical motivations for formulating research hypothesis are empirical verification of the hypothesis. Students will learn how to analyze data and present findings and if inclined gain a deeper understanding of statistical software packages like STATA and R.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Anustubh Agnihotri

Qualifications: The applicant should have a good understanding of excel functions and keen attention to detail. Ability to use statistical packages can come in handy. Interest in developing countries, decentralization, and knowledge of South Asia would be a plus, but is not required.

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs