Ordinary Academicians

Niraja Gopal Jayal


Niraja Gopal Jayal

Date of birth 22 February 1956

Place New Delhi, India (Asia)

Nomination 20 March 2020

Field Political Science

Title Professor

  • Biography
  • Publications
  • Self-Presentation

Most important awards, prizes and academies
Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize for Citizenship and its Discontents: An Indian History, awarded by the Association of Asian Studies, March 2015; Sanjaya Lall Memorial Prize for the Best Article in the journal Oxford Development Studies (Vol. 39, 2011); Radhakrishnan Memorial Lecturer, All Souls College, Oxford (2009); Essay Prize of the Society for Applied Philosophy (UK) (1993). Academies and memberships: Member, Committee set up by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India to Develop a Composite Index for the Measurement of Backwardness in the Indian States; Chairman, Raghuram Rajan (June-Aug 2013); Vice-President, American Political Science Association (2011-12); Member, Editorial Board, Governance (2016-); Member, Editorial Board, Pacific Affairs (2015-); Member, Editorial Board, Indian Politics and Policy (Policy Studies Organization; American Political Science Association) (2017-); Member, Editorial Board, International Feminist Journal of Politics (2011-17); Member, Editorial Advisory Board, India Review (2002-); Member, Editorial Board, Studies in Indian Politics (2013-); Member, International Advisory Board, Parliamentary Affairs (2019-24); Member, Editorial Board, Modern South Asia Series, Oxford University Press, New York (2017-); Trustee, The India Forum; Member, Editorial Board of the Anthem Press (UK) book series Plurality in South Asia; Jury Member, New India Foundation Book Fellowship (since 2005); Member, Board of Trustees, National Foundation for India (2015-20); Member, Advisory Council, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford (2013-16); Member, International Pluralism Advisory Group, Global Centre for Pluralism, Ottawa (2014-17); Lead Author, International Panel on Social Progress (2015-17) [Chapter 2: Social Progress: A Compass]; Member, Board of Trustees, National Foundation for India (2014-); Technical Advisor, UN Women Project, An Assessment of Elected Women Representatives in Panchayati Raj Institutions in India – Inception Report (2016-17); Member, Centre Advisory Review Group, The Centre for the Future State, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, UK (2002-10); Member, Advisory Board, Gendered Ceremony and Ritual in Parliament, a Leverhulme Trust programme at the University of Warwick, UK (2008-11); Member, Commissioning Panel of the ESRC-DFID Joint Scheme for Research on International Development (Poverty Alleviation), Phase 1 (2005) and Phase 2 (2010); Member, Committee to Review the Indian Council of Social Science Research (Chairman: Prof. A. Vaidyanathan) (2006-07); Member, Central Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India (2004-09); Member, Board of Governors, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi (2010-13).

Summary of scientific research
Niraja Gopal Jayal is a political scientist who works at the intersection of political theory and the study of Indian politics. Her scholarly work has been in four main areas: democracy, representation, citizenship and governance (including local governance and gender and governance). She is presently working on the crisis of the public university in India. Jayal is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. She is also Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics (2019-22).

Main publications
Authored booksCitizenship and its Discontents: An Indian History (Harvard University Press, 2013; South Asia edition by Permanent Black, 2013; paperback edition 2015); Representing India: Ethnic Diversity and the Governance of Public Institutions (Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2005); Democracy and the State: Welfare, Secularism and Development in Contemporary India, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1999. Co-authored books: Co-author (with Martha Nussbaum, Amrita Basu and Yasmin Tambiah) Essays on Gender and Governance. United Nations Development Programme, New Delhi, 2003; Co-author (with Kuldeep Mathur) Drought, Policy and Politics in India. Sage Publications, Delhi, 1993; Jayal, Niraja Gopal (ed.) Re-Forming India: The Nation Today. Gurgaon: Penguin Random House, 2019; (Co-editor with Pratap Bhanu Mehta) The Oxford Companion to Politics in India (Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2010); Democracy in India (ed.) [Themes in Politics Series] Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2001; Edited and introduced Sidney and Beatrice Webb: Indian Diary, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1987, Oxford Paperbacks, Oxford, 1990; (Co-editor) Local Governance in India: Decentralization and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2005); (Co-editor) Interrogating Social Capital: The Indian Experience (Sage, New Delhi, 2004); (Co-editor) Democratic Governance in India: Challenges of Poverty, Development and Identity, Sage Publications, Delhi, 2001. Select Journal Articles and Book Chapters: “Reconfiguring Citizenship in Contemporary India”, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies February 2019; “The Imagined Futures of the Public University in India” in Globalizations (Special Forum on the Future of the University) March 2019; “The Idea of Academic Freedom” in Apoorvanand, ed. The Idea of a University, New Delhi: Context/Westland. 2019; “Indian Democracy”, in Oxford Bibliographies in Political Science, ed. Sandy Maisel, New York: Oxford University Press; “Indian Democracy”, Oxford Bibliographies Online, Oxford University Press, 2016; “Citizenship” in Sujit Choudhry, Madhav Khosla and Pratap Bhanu Mehta, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution, New York: Oxford University Press 2016; “Contending Representative Claims in Indian Democracy” in India Review, Vol. 15, No. 2, April-June 2016; “Affirmative Action in India: Before and After the Neo-liberal Turn” in Cultural Dynamics, Vol. 27(1) March 2015. Special Issue: Neoliberalism, Inequality and the Cultural Politics of Affirmative Action; “The Right to Have Rights: Taking Hannah Arendt to India” in Ashwani Peetush and Jay Drydyk, eds. Human Rights: India and the West. Delhi: Oxford University Press 2015; “Indian citizenship: a century of disagreement” in Engin F. Isin and Peter Nyers, eds., Routledge Handbook of Global Citizenship Studies, Abingdon: Routledge, 2014; “The Rival Representative Claims of Parliament and Civil Society in India” in Sudha Pai and Avinash Kumar, eds. The Indian Parliament: A Critical Appraisal, New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2014; “Finding the Citizen in the City” in The City & South Asia, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard South Asia Institute, 2014; “Politics on and of the Margins” in Seminar (From the Margins: a symposium on life, living and struggle in Delhi’s urban periphery) No. 663: November 2014; “An Immense and (In)complete Democracy: A Tocquevillian Perspective on India’s Experiment with Democratic Citizenship” in Ira Katznelson and Partha Chatterjee, eds. Anxieties of Democracy, New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 2012; “A False Dichotomy? The Unresolved Tension between Universal and Differentiated Citizenship in India” in Oxford Development Studies, Volume 39, No. 2. June 2011, pp. 185-204; “The transformation of citizenship in India in the 1990s and beyond” in Sanjay Ruparelia, Sanjay Reddy, John Harriss and Stuart Corbridge, eds. Understanding India’s New Political Economy: A Great Transformation? Routledge, London, 2011.

I am a political scientist by training, and taught at India’s premier graduate university for the social sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, for 35 years. I now hold the Avantha Chair at the King’s India Institute, King’s College, London. I am presently also Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics.

The core areas of my research and publication have been democracy, representation, citizenship, and gender and governance. The chief quality of my work, over the last few decades, has been the effort to bring key concepts in political theory into conversation with the empirical world of political practices and discourses. This distinctive perspective has been recognised as pioneering a new approach in the study of politics in India. The impetus for this has been three-fold:

  1. I have tried to interrogate the artificial but deeply ingrained separation between Political Theory and Political Science, a rupture between the normative and the empirical, so to speak, in the study of Indian politics. This effort is premised on the belief that our thinking about politics is commonly informed by ethical conceptions of the purposes of public power and its exercise.
  2. I have tried to introduce, into a predominantly positivist tradition of political analysis, the normative as a legitimate component. My work on the empirical aspects and practices of democracy, representation and citizenship has consistently engaged with the conceptual histories and normative debates around these political concepts.
  3. I have sought to recover some of the ethical impulses that inflect the understanding of politics as a practical enterprise.

My early work, in the book Democracy and the State: Welfare, Secularism and Development, questioned the then hegemonic celebratory view of Indian democracy by applying criteria of substantive democracy in these three arenas of state intervention. My book Representing India marshalled an enormous amount of data to comprehensively map the under-representation of India’s ethnic diversity in its public institutions. This was followed by Citizenship and its Discontents: An Indian History, an intellectual history of the idea of citizenship in India across the 20th century. It was the first study of any political concept in India, and over such an extended time span, that interpreted the ideational and political history of citizenship in India through the lens of the political theory of citizenship.

My work can also be seen as participating in the intellectual project of comparative political thought. I have consistently tried to reflect on how normative concepts travel and find translation in different contexts; and how they are invoked and interpreted in the non-Western world, with diverse implications for political theory and practice.

I am presently working on three book projects, at least two of which are quite different from the kind of work I have done so far.

  • The first is a book on the public university in India which is, by common consensus, in deep crisis. I am exploring the roots and contours of this crisis, arguing that it is a function of both exogenous and endogenous factors.
  • The second is the biography of a remarkable Indian woman, Hansa Mehta, who was an associate of Gandhi in India’s freedom movement. She was sent as India’s representative to the UN Commission on Human Rights in the 1940s, and is credited with having ensured the gender-neutral phrasing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Finally, I am co-editing The Cambridge Companion to the Constitution of India, which interprets the Constitution as a social and economic text, and its evolution both within and outside the Courts.

Professional Address

Centre for the Study of Law and Governance Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi 110067