Fifth Chandan Sengupta Memorial lecture: Which 'Development Studies': Interrogating Learnings and Doings by Professor Ashwani Saith


Date: March 20, 2017

Venue: Library Conference Hall

Organised by: School of Development Studies


Ideas and concepts emerge from specific historical, societal and ideological contexts and conjunctures, but they tend to outlive them, to mutate and to serve different purposes, agendas and masters. It is not unusual to identify concepts and intellectual interventions that had radical transformational motivations at their point of origin, becoming incorporated and metamorphosed into instruments of mainstream hegemonic political projects and policy agendas.

In contrast to the tendency in mainstream social science disciplines, including development economics, to claim to be value neutral and ideology free, the hallmark of Development Studies is that it explicitly embraces normative and related prescriptive dimensions; as such it can neither pretend to be value-free nor free of the power fields and material interests of the protagonists of specific packages of development.

The domain of Development Studies has multiple origins, trajectories and destinations. Some route maps are traced, locating the spatial and temporal coordinates of distinctive historical and societal conjunctures where key development ideas and strategies emerged. Do these add up to a coherent discipline, to a consensus over content, or to a shared agenda for praxis? The commentary on the development of development theory highlights the interface between ideational and material fields and asks if the emerging mainstreaming drift in Development Studies has not excised political economy and politics from its frame, thereby distancing itself from its intrinsic anti-hegemonic roots.

Professor Saith is currently Professor Emeritus with the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam. An important participant in the evolution of Development Studies as a field of study, he will speak on the topic "Which 'Development Studies': Interrogating Learnings and Doings". The abstract of the talk and a short bio of Professor Saith are attached below.

Short bio:

Ashwani Saith studied at the St Stephen's College, Delhi, and Trinity College, Cambridge, and has held academic positions at the Delhi School of Economics; Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge; Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford; International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague (where he is Professor Emeritus); and the London School of Economics where he was Director of its Development Studies Institute (DESTIN) and held the first Chair in Development Studies. In India, he has served as Visiting Professor at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram; Institute of Human Development, New Delhi; SEWA Academy, Ahmedabad; and Rabindranath Tagore Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata. He is also a Visiting Professor at the School of Development Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi. He has served on the editorial boards of several development journals, including the Journal of Development Studies, Journal of Peasant Studies, Journal of Agrarian Change, Indian Journal of Labour Economics and Indian Journal of Human Development. He has been an editor of the journal Development and Change since 1983, and chairs its Editorial Board. He has researched and published widely on various development issues; the regional focus of his work has been on Asia, especially India and China.