Dr Ipshita Basu
Senior Lecturer in International Relations
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I am a political sociologist by training and my primary area of research over the last 10 years has been on the politics of identity, representation and violence in relation to development and governance. I believe that good research should make a social impact and my career so far taken inspiration from and evolved through connections with academic, practical and policy spheres.
Soon after completing my PhD in International Development from the University of Bath in 2010 I joined BRAC University’s Institute of Governance Studies (now called Institute of Governance and Development) as their Head of Research between 2010-2012. I was steering the IDRC’s Think Tank Initiative programme and during my tenure I led the research team on the publication of the first and very influential State of Cities report on Dhaka. In 2012, I joined the University of Surrey’s Department of Politics and here I was engaged with the Centre for Critical Research on International Intervention. I came to the U.K. for the first time in 2001 to study for a Master’s in Gender Studies at the University of Warwick, returned to India to work as a journalist and then a scholarship brought me back to the U.K. in 2004 for an M.Res and Phd in International Development. At present, I am settled in the U.K. but like most cosmopolitan migrants I remain connected with my peers in India, Bangladesh and the rest of South Asia.
I enjoy teaching very much and I have primarily taught modules on the Politics of Development, Policy Narratives and Critical International Relations Theory. I have taught at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels at several universities in the U.K., Europe and South Asia and over the years the most important lesson I have learnt is that a good teacher is flexible, follows an iterative approach and above all is a good listener. In my teaching I apply the philosophy of experiential learning which is an approach of “learning by doing”. One often wonders how critical approaches to development and politics might be taught in a hands-on, practical yet reflective manner. I have found that this is possible by applying a cyclical model of concrete experience through narrating stories or observation, followed by reflection, then abstract conceptualisation when the theory is introduced, and finally implementation through small group exercises. I aim to inspire students to be critical thinkers at best and at the very least inspire curiosity and confidence.
At present, my overarching interest in the politics of identity and representation has led me to take up 4 areas of research:
Middle Class Governmentality: The idea of the middle class has been operationalised in colonial, nationalist, neoliberal policy and elite circles. I am interested in critically deconstructing this category by exploring both its empirical and discursive influence. Empirically, along with my political psychologist colleague Tereza Capelos we have revealed the heterogeneity of the political values of the Indian middle class. And discursively, I have written on how a “discourse coalition” on “urban citizenship” has been institutionalised jointly by state, corporates and middle class activists while at the same time contending with alternative discourse coalitions from rights based approach and subaltern citizenship.
Identity, Justice and Violence: Identity and difference are constitutive of violence and claims for justice. Previously, I have unpacked how power relations in a given society influence the scope and legitimacy for social justice claims-making. I have also shown how identity and discourses of security work in tandem with development interventions. At present I am interested in exploring the politics of pain, i.e. how narratives of pain at the borders circumscribes the politics of sovereignty and security.
Emerging Powers: In a realist worldview emerging powers are envisaged as an alternative/threat to traditional power structures. I have, however, devoted my research to critically reflect on the representational practices of the emerging powers themselves. In particular I have been looking at the relation between populism, domestic politics and foreign policy. I have written on India, where the China threat plays a crucial constitutive function in India’s great power projection and I have shown that this Othering is aimed to appeal not just for international audiences but also to domestic sentiments of pride, majoritarianism and nationalism.
Postcolonial IR Theory: My theoretical orientation is decidedly a critical one and I am very involved with efforts to theorise perspectives which critique and advance alternative worldviews. As co-convenor of BISA’s International Studies of Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia I am facilitating inter-disciplinary debates on the knowledge production, identity and foreign affairs of these regions. We recently held a workshop on Bodies, Borders and (Un)belonging at the University of Westminster, and this is a trailblazer for a further set of panels and publications on the topic.
I am interested in supervising doctoral research on all of the above topics. Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss your ideas and plans.