Assam State Archives in Guwahati, India

Research Interests: 

Dissertation Project: 

Pulling the State In: Group Structures and the Politics of State-building in Indian and Burmese Peripheries

This dissertation examines the politics of peripheries and state-building in the geographically challenging borderlands of South and Southeast Asian highlands. Departing from prevailing theories of state-building which emphasize the center's capacity and will, I develop an endogenous theory of state-building that focuses on the conditions and dynamics within the peripheries that shape the state-building processes. I argue that group structures, whether fragmented or hegemonic, within peripheral societies 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. To test this theory, I construct a subnational controlled comparison of two borderlands of India (Nagaland, Mizoram, 1947-89) as the primary case and Burma (Chin and Kachin, 1948-62) as the shadow case. Drawing on extensive archival and interview data collected during thirteen months of fieldwork in 2018-2020 in these remote regions, I find that existing theories of state-building often oversimplify the intricate local conditions that shape political development and the projection of state power in the previously ungoverned hinterlands and that my theory better explains empirical patterns of statebuilding observed in these cases.


   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 Publications: 

 "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) 

     "Ethnic powersharing and affirmative action" (with Rachel M. Gisselquist and Andrea Voccaro)

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