From the Ganges to the Yangtze: New Academic Leadership for the India China Institute

The India China Institute has focused on transregional culture and politics since 2003.

Pop quiz: What are the world’s two most populous nations?

Even without looking at the title of this article, you probably would have answered correctly: India and China boast a combined population of more than 2.5 billion, nearly a third of the world’s people.

But that’s about where the easy answers end—and, for The New School’s India China Institute (ICI), where the interesting work starts. Since its founding in 2004, the ICI has become a leading center for the study of the endlessly complex relationships between India, China, and the United States, offering research fellowships, student funding, and a public speakers series. This semester, the ICI will further expand its influence and programming by welcoming two new academic directors, Mark Frazier and Sanjay Reddy.

“Mark and Sanjay arrive at an opportune moment for ICI,” said Ashok Gurung, founding director of ICI.  “The ICI has built strong personal and institutional connections over the past years. But advancing the ever-changing discourse around China and India requires a sustained outreach effort by trusted intellectual leaders–which is why I’m so glad to welcome Mark and Sanjay to the Center.”

Reddy and Frazier’s careers have focused on the rise of the two emerging world powers. Reddy, who has taught economics at The New School for Social Research since 2009, specializes in poverty, development, and political economy in contemporary India. Frazier, who begins serving as a professor of politics at The New School for Social Research this semester, was previously the ConocoPhillips Professor of Chinese Politics and director of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Both academic directors look forward to promoting a more nuanced understanding of China and India and interregional exchange.

“Discussions of the relations between China and India tend to assume that their future will be one of either cooperation or conflict,” says Frazier. “ICI programming and research present a more complex picture of the dense networks and lively exchange of ideas and technologies between Chinese and Indians. Nonstate exchanges between the two peoples have been a pattern over the past two millennia.”

The work of Victoria Marshall, a 2010–2012 ICI Fellow in Social Innovation for Sustainable Environments, reflects the focus on person-to-person exchanges between India and China. Marshall is examining how such exchanges inform grassroots social innovation by researching environmental activism in two river cities: Kolkata, India, and Shaoxing, China. Marshall is helping to forge new research partnerships between Kolkata, which lies on the Ganges, and Shaoxing, on the Yangtze. Marshall’s culminating project will be a set of drawings exploring the theme “designing environmental activism,” depicting new forms of grassroots intervention in urban ecologies.

“I’m exploring a dichotomy described by the ecologist STA Picket as ‘ecology in the city’ versus ‘ecology of the city.’ That is, progressing from a worldview that separates culture and nature to one which envisions cultures and natures as integrated,” Marshall says.

Marshall’s transdisciplinary approach to research is shared by the other ICI fellows. The group includes China’s Dong Shikui, who studies how people and institutions are influenced to make ecological management choices, and India’s Sanjay Chaturvedi, who focuses on the connections between environmental security, geopolitics, and justice.

According to Sanjay Reddy, these projects represent a unique approach to some of the world’s most pressing issues—an approach found only at The New School.

“There are really no other institutions with a comparable mandate,” says Reddy. “The ICI presents the compelling face of a new New School, engaged with the world beyond in entirely new ways while upholding the institution’s best intellectual traditions. “

To learn more about the ICI, visit the India China Blog at www.indiachinainstitute.org. In addition, the ICI welcomes all members of The New School community to meet ICI leaders and fellows at an open reception on Tuesday, September 4, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Teresa Lang Community and Student Center, 55 West 12th Street.