Assam State Archives in Guwahati, India

Research Interests: 

Dissertation Project: 

Uneven frontier states: Group structures and state-building in northeast India and Burma

My dissertation examines the politics of peripheries and state-building in the geographically challenging highland borderlands of South and Southeast Asia. Departing from the prevailing theories of state-building emphasizing the center's capacity and will, I develop an endogenous theory of state-building by focusing on the conditions and dynamics within the hinterlands that shape the state-building processes. I argue that group structures (fragmented or hegemonic) within peripheral societies, inherited from colonial and missionary actors in the 19th and early 20th centuries, are crucial in determining center-periphery dynamics and the center's state-building response in the postcolonial period. Specifically, the group structures shape the collective action capacities of the periphery and its preference for state collaboration, which in turn constrain the center's choice for more mediated/centralized rule and its opportunity to extend state visibility throughout the territory. I test this theory against a subnational comparison of two borderlands of India (Nagaland, Mizoram, 1947-72) as a primary case and Burma (Chin and Kachin, 1948-62) as a shadow case. Based on the thirteen months of fieldwork in 2018-2020 in these remote regions, I found that the theory explains empirical patterns of state-building in these cases relatively well. This dissertation concludes by summarizing the empirical findings and discussing alternative accounts and policy implications.


   2023.   "Buffer Zones and International Rivalry: Internal and External Geographic Separation Mechanisms" (with Boaz Atzili), International Affairs, 99(2): 645-665. 

     - Winner of Van Kirk Awards from American University; Selected as "Editor's Choice" for the issue

  2023.  "Affirmative action around the world: insights from a new dataset" (with Rachel M. Gisselquist and Simone Schotte), WIDER Working Paper, 59/2023. 

Other Publication: 

 "Why buffer zones are vital for understanding great power conflict" (with Boaz Atzili), International Affairs Blog, April 26. 2023. 

Manuscripts in Progress: 

     "Uneven Violent Geographies: External Pressures, Selective State-Building, and Peripheral Conflict" (final preparation for manuscript submission; available upon request) 

     "Buffer State Dataset, 1945-2020" (with Boaz Atzili, Grace Benson & Ozan Ahmet Cetin) (data collection & analysis phase) 

“Pulling the Center In: Territorial Expansion within the Northeast Frontiers of British Raj”