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Political Science

The undergraduate program of Political Science at Ashoka University aims to provide students with a conceptual foundation in the discipline, with an ability to critically analyze the omnipresence of the “political.” Through various courses we shall examine the nature, distribution and dynamics of power – both at the macro level of national and international politics and also at the micro level of the individual, family and community. We will map the ways in which knowledge systems and challenges to particular power relations have been constructed over specific vectors of time and space. We will study both Aristotle and Plato, Gandhi and Iqbal; complementing studies on Cold War politics will be an exploration of party politics in South Asia. The relationship of theory and ethnography, quantitative and qualitative techniques, analysis of objective data and descriptive accounts will provide the background to our studies. Exploration of the ‘field’ and ‘data collection’ will be of vital importance as we seek to prepare a strong foundation in research methodology. Following Ashoka University’s aim of covering the breadth of disciplines and exploring their interconnections, a student of Political Science will be encouraged to identify and pursue areas of interest that go beyond conventional disciplinary structures.



Introduction to Political Thought
The course will introduce fundamental concepts of political philosophy through a critical reading of some of the major texts and thinkers from both the western and Indian political traditions. The central question of the course will be to trace how various political thinkers have impacted the development of different political institutions, from the polis to government and democracy.


Principles and Practices of Democracy
This course will introduce defining principles of democracy and how they have translated into various democratic systems. From a study of definitions of democracy, democratic norms and institutions, the course will compare various forms of democracies across the world and equip students with the conceptual and analytical tools required to understand the functioning of contemporary political institutions.


Dynamics of State Formation
This course will examine the trajectory of State-building in India through an examination of the pre-Independence roots of the modern Indian state and its re-invention by the Constituent Assembly. It will also focus on the progressive reshaping of the Indian state – linguistic federalism, affirmative action, decentralisation, among other themes –, contextualised in their social and economic context. The terms and actors of the debates and controversies that have accompanied these changes will also be examined.


Social and Political Movements
The focus of this course will be to analyse the birth and trajectory of social and political movements: the transformations in patterns of conflict, the processes of citizenship, mobilisation and participation, the role of civil society and cultural representations in social conflict. By exploring case studies, political theory and research, the course will introduce students to ideas of collective action.


Research Methods in Political Science
Research is an important aspect of political science. This course will not only give students an overview of how to critically analyse existing social science research on the basis of research methods but will also train them in specifying research questions, research design, quantitative and qualitative data analysis and basic use of statistical methods.


Global Politics
The focus of this course will be to understand how globalisation affects public and social actions and how state and non-state actors, individual and collective actors, cooperate and oppose each other on the world’s stage, reshaping classic inter-state relations. This course will be completely pluridisciplinary and will be based on case studies of some of the major challenges brought by globalisation – financialisation and economic globalisation, new interdependences, migration and conflicts, among others. It will also focus on the attempts at reorganising the world order after the fall of the Berlin Wall and will use cartography as a tool for enlightening complex processes of global change.


Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia
This course will compare the pre and post-Independence political trajectories of South Asian nations and examine in a comparative manner the development of the State, civil society and political dynamics in each country. It will transversally focus on political regimes, on the role of parties, institutions, identity politics, religion and violence in the shaping of these nations.


Introduction to Political Theory
This course will cover the major work of main schools of contemporary political thinking – drawing from continental European, Anglo-Saxon and non-Western traditions – and will train the students to think about contemporary political issues through the prism of these intellectual traditions.


Comparative Politics
A comparative study of political systems, this course will provide students with a foundational framework to examine political events through theoretical analysis, for instance, explaining the relationship between democracy and economic development, or the functioning of authoritarian regimes. This course will aim at developing tools for political comparison; to critically engage with concepts and events like democratic transition, democratisation, de-democratisation, political conflict, civil wars etc.


Political Parties and Electoral Politics in India
Parties are major actors in India’s political life and their presence and action go far beyond the field of electoral competition. This course will examine long-term trends in electoral politics; compare parties’ formation and organisations, and analyse the sociology of representation across states in India. It will also examine politically, sociologically and anthropologically how elections are fought, won and lost and what individual and collective political actors do between elections. The course will equip students with various qualitative and quantitative methodological tools for the empirical study of party and electoral politics.


Indian Politics in Art
What makes art political? Does it have the power to instigate social change? Can artistic techniques create critical spectators? What is the relationship between art and democracy? What role does state patronage play in the development of certain art practices and in the disappearance of others? This course will explore these questions by theoretically and practically studying selected forms of politics, visuality and art in post-independence India.


Critical Themes in Politics
This course will critically engage the notions of individual and collective identity, religion and violence and the role they play in democratic societies in Europe and South Asia. Students will have to conduct their own comparative research project for this course.


Foundation Courses

Social and Political Formations

This course will introduce students to non-European aspects of political thought with particular recourse to various parts of the colonised world. The course shall largely focus on the colonial and post-colonial periods in order to highlight to students, not only the reception of concepts like liberalism in the non-European world, but also explore how these concepts underwent changes and reinterpretations in new environments.

Taught by: Ali Khan

Critical Thinking Seminars

Political Ecology:

This course is intended to help students understand the broader politicization of nature through processes of environmental governance, development politics, and struggles over resources and livelihoods. We will pay close attention to the role of political economic processes in shaping environmental transformations and interpretations of ecological change, as well as to the ways in which understandings of nature are materially and discursively bound up with social processes and multiple axes of differentiation (e.g. gender, caste, class, etc.). Overall, the course will help students engage critically with a broad range of theories and themes related to questions of nature, culture, power, and their interactions.

Taught by: Mitul Baruah

Major Requirements

Each student will take a total of 12 courses towards the major, and 4 electives either inside or outside the major. After some mandatory introductory courses exploring various sub-disciplines like Political Theory, Comparative Politics, Global Politics, our courses will be organized along multiple lines of inquiry. If courses like Dynamics of State Formation and Principles and Practices of Democracy delve into conceptual and historical processes, others like Social and Political Movements or Indian Art in Politics explore inter disciplinary genres within the larger rubric of political science.

Most classes will meet twice a week for an hour and a half each. These classes with the Professor will be supplemented by a weekly hour-long session with the Teaching Assistant for a total of 4 hours a week of class time per course.