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Pratap Bhanu Mehta

Laurence S. Rockefeller Professor for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University

Speaks on:

Universities and Intellectual Life in The Age of Populism

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM (ET)

followed by an informal conversation with

Ira Katznelson
Former SSRC President
Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University 

Anna Harvey
SSRC President
Professor of Politics and Director, Public Safety Lab, New York University


Event Recording

About the Lecture

Across the world, from Hungary to India, United States to Brazil, universities are increasingly becoming sites for battles over populism. Although the contexts vary, the tropes deployed by populists in their engagement with the university are uncannily similar. Most of the discussion focuses on the institutional implications of populist politics for universities: regulation of syllabi, codes governing free speech, funding decisions, erosion of autonomy of the university, and a general attack on expertise and elitism. By the same token, universities are often thought to relate to populism not as communities of scholars pursuing a vocation, but rather as a privileged group defending its privileges. How did the university come to be a site of populist contestation? This lecture will place the populist interest in universities in the broader context of the relationship between universities and nationalism in the twentieth century. It will offer some comparative reflections on the phenomenon, and argue that universities will have to confront some deeper contradictions if they are to overcome the challenge of populism.

About Pratap Bhanu Mehta

Pratap Bhanu Mehta is Laurence S. Rockefeller Professor for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University. He was previously vice-chancellor of Ashoka University and president of the Center for Policy Research, Delhi. He has been a professor at Harvard University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and the Global Faculty Program at the New York University School of Law. Dr. Mehta has published widely in political theory, constitutional law, governance and political economy, international affairs, and on society and politics in India.

His most recent publications include The Oxford Handbook to the Indian Constitution (co-edited with Madhav Khosla and Sujit Choudhary), Rethinking Public Institutions in India (with Devesh Kapur and Milan Vaishnav), Non-Alignment 2.0 (with Srinath Raghavan, Sunil Khilnani, et al.), The Oxford Companion to Politics in India (with Niraja Jayal), Shaping the Emerging World: India and the Multilateral Order (with Bruce Jones and W.P.S. Sidhu), and The Burden of Democracy.

Dr. Mehta has also served in a number of policy roles in India, including as a member convenor of the Prime Minister of India’s National Knowledge Commission, member of the National Security Advisory Board, and member of the Lyngdoh Committee. He chairs the jury for the Holberg Prize.

Dr. Mehta has engaged prolifically in public affairs. He is an editorial consultant to Indian Express, where he writes a regular column. In addition, he has written for the Financial Times and a number of leading national and international publications. He is on the editorial board of the American Political Science Review and Journal of Democracy.

Dr. Mehta holds a BA (first class) in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Oxford and a PhD in politics from Princeton. He received the 2010 Malcolm S. Adiseshiah Award and the 2011 Infosys Prize for Social Sciences–Political Science.