February 20, 2004
Colloquium Speaker: Sunil Khilnani
Dr. Sunil Khilnani was born in New Delhi and educated at Trinity Hall and King's College, Cambridge, where he gained his PhD. He is currently Professor of Politics and Director, South Asia Studies, at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University, in Washington DC. Formerly Professor of Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London, he has been a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge; was a Visiting Professor at Seikei University, Tokyo; has held a Leverhulme Fellowship (1998-2000); and was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC in 2001-02. His publications include Arguing Revolution: the Intellectual Left in Postwar France (Yale University Press, 1993), the widely acclaimed The Idea of India (Penguin, 1997, 3rd edition 2003); Civil Society: History and Possibilities (Cambridge University Press, 2001); and he has written the 'Introduction' to Gandhi's Autobiography', published as a Penguin Modern Classic (2001). He is writing a biography of Jawaharlal Nehru, to be published by the Penguin Press.
The half dozen countries of South Asia contain almost a quarter of the world's population: India alone numbers over a billion people, and on current trends will overtake China as the world's most populous nation by the middle of this century. Economically, over the past decade India * which is the core engine of South Asia * has begun finally to move into a cycle of more rapid growth. Internationally, India is seeking to edge its way onto the world stage, to claim the higher status it believes it deserves. Yet the region is also undergoing strains. Politically, it is witnessing a surge of political extremisms, which draw on religious passions, and which threaten to spill over into international conflict. Socially, India is experiencing a vast 'silent revolution' which is re-writing the ancient caste order in a new register, and is releasing powerful new social energies. This talk will examine some of the main trends that are re-defining India and the region, and which place it on the edge.