Asian Political Economy

Program Directors: Vamsi Vakulabharanam and Arjun Jayadev


Asian Political economy image The rise of China and India since 1980 has been perhaps the most profound change in the global economy in the recent decades. In just a few decades, hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty as these giant economies have undergone rapid and turbulent growth. Moreover, the economic processes unleashed have had global impacts. This revolution constitutes the second act of the rise of Asia, following on the rapid growth of Japan, East Asia and South East Asia in quick succession between 1950 and 1990. With the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the global economy is now experiencing a different bipolarity: military and political strength concentrated in the U.S. (and to a lesser extent in Europe) and economic strength migrating inexorably to Asia. These movements constitute the most far-reaching changes that will constitute the fundamental facts of the twenty first century global economy and society. Despite the obvious importance of this polarization, we do not yet have a significant/systematic exploration of these issues. Critical questions remain open for research: What is the political economy of this changing configuration of the global economy? How are the political economic configurations of various Asian economies evolving over time? What are the implications of the looming threat to the global ecological sustainability, in part due to these transformations? This creates an interesting as well as a challenging moment in the global history that is being collectively created. This program aims to further the research agenda on the emerging Asian region and its impact on the global economy.

Scope and Objectives

The program, by focusing on the political economy of the Asian region, and the different nation states, and the changing political economy of the global economy, distinguishes itself from the core focus areas of the existing Asia Centers or Institutes in the US, Western Europe and Australia. The existing institutes have tended to focus on cultural aspects, languages, politics and economic issues but have not delved deeper into matters of political economy.This program aims to bring together research topics and themes in the broad areas of cities and urbanization, rural transformation, internal migration, class relations, group dynamics, sub-national interactions, labor, ecological issues, role of the state and regimes of capitalism. The geographical focus of the program is East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia.The aim of the program is to promote interdisciplinary interactions among scholars with a special emphasis on historical and political economy based social science inquiry. The territorial/spatial levels of enquiry are sub-national, national and regional aspects of Asian economies while locating the region in the larger global economy. We would ideally promote knowledge produced through multiple methodologies: theory building, evidence from secondary sources, and primary research based on field or the archive.

Planned Activities

The program on Asian Political Economy is primarily focused on research. The program aims to achieve its research mission by supporting faculty and graduate students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to implement academic and research projects that broadly encompass the study of Asia, building a global network of active alumni, organizing conferences, regular workshops, seminars, and study groups, hosting visiting fellows and encouraging collaboration and cooperation with other Asian research institutes worldwide. In particular, we wish to network with other programs that have the same scope and vision. As such, we hope to build partnerships with the Regional Political Economy center that is coming up at the Azim Premji University in Bangalore (India), and the India China Institute at the New School University, New York and have already begun discussions in this regard. We also seek to actively disseminate research results to the wider public in the field of contemporary Asian studies. As part of the program, regular lectures, periodic seminars, workshops and conferences will be conducted that bring scholars from all over Asia and other parts of the world together.


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