Shylashri Shankar

Researcher Profile

Shylashri Shankar is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. She has held academic positions at the University of Texas at Austin and the Center on Religion and Democracy, University of Virginia.  In June 2011, she was a Bellagio Fellow at the Rockefeller Centre in Bellagio (Italy).  She has a Ph.D (Political Science) from Columbia University, an MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science, an MA (Cantab) from the University of Cambridge, and a BA (Hons.) from Delhi University. She is the author of SCALING JUSTICE: India’s Supreme Court, Anti-Terror Laws and Social Rights (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2009), and co-author (with Raghav Gaiha) of BATTLING CORRUPTION: Has NREGA Reached India’s Rural Poor (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, forthcoming). Her intellectual and research interests include assessing the debates on constitutionalism, religious freedom, and human rights;  ‘activism’ and policy making by the judiciary; re-creating old cities in the context of globalization; and the political economy of anti-poverty initiatives.

Current Research:

1. Political Economy

- Battling Corruption: Has NREGA reached India’s Rural Poor? (Oxford University Press,New Delhi, forthcoming). The book is co-authored with Dr. Raghav Gaiha. The book is based on a household and ethnographic study of four sub-national states in India and focuses on the effectiveness of mechanisms that governments and communities adopt to battle corruption. It assesses and tests theories on formal and informal mechanisms – political decentralization, community social audits, access to information, membership in networks and political competition – that have enabled a national rural employment guarantee scheme to reach its intended beneficiaries.

2. Judiciary and Constitutional Rights
Substantive Citizenship in a Security-Conscious State, Paper prepared for an annual Tripartite initiative of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), along with Institute of Legal Studies, University of London and South Asian Studies Council, MacMillan Centre, Yale University, who are organizing an International Conference on “Law and Democracy in India” on 20-21 June 2012.
The paper addresses the question of how anti-terror laws like POTA and UAPA are utilized by the State in an era where security concerns are paramount, and how that impacts on the substantive citizenship of minorities and subalterns in the mainland and the North-east. I analyse the patterns generated by about a hundred cases in the lower and higher judiciary in the post-9/11 decade and link the rulings to electoral politics. I also compare and contrast the court’s behaviour with the judgments in earlier cases registered under TADA and Preventive Detention (the subject of my 2009 book, Scaling Justice), and with cases pertaining to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the North East and in Jammu and Kashmir. [This could be a topic for collaborative research too].

- ‘The Embedded Negotiators: India’s Higher Judiciary and Socioeconomic Rights,’ in Daniel Bonilla ed. Constitutionalism in the Global South (under review at Cambridge University Press). This chapter traces the contours of this role by focusing on social rights litigation in education and health in the apex court and in the high courts from 2006—11. It argues that it would be more pertinent to see India’s apex court and the high courts as facilitators/mediators who enable the state and citizen groups to negotiate settlements, and achieve the goal of enhancing the access and quality of these rights. The mechanisms adopted by the higher judiciary in India encourage a participative and collaborative route, thus reinforcing the picture of a judge as a negotiator.  It links such judicial behaviour to institutional and constitutional constraints.

- “The Judiciary, Policy and Politics in India” in Bjoern Dressel (ed) Judicialization of Politics in Asia (Routledge, forthcoming).

3. Old Cities and Globalization

Currently working on a book on how the old city of Hyderabad has encountered globalization and modernization. How does the encounter change the ethos of who is a Hyderabadi and the spirit of the city? If, as Daniel Bell and Avner de-Shalit say, that cities reflect as well as shape the inhabitants’ outlooks and values in various ways, then what is the place of the old city of Hyderabad within the newer and larger spaces it inhabits today? What are the conversations that take place between the groups inhabiting the old part and the new entrants from the hinterland and other parts? How are the political, spatial, economic and cultural boundaries redrawn to accommodate these changes, and what is their impact on citizenship rights?

Global Collaborations

- Co-organized a workshop with David Mednicoff (University of Massachusetts) in Onati, Spain on Comparative Sociolegal Processes of Secularization: Political Variations on the Theme of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age’. The outcome is an edited volume which is under preparation.

- Collaborated with scholars in Brazil, India, South Africa, Uganda, Bolivia and Bangladesh on a three year (2008—11) study of the influence of community social organizations on creating systemic change in these countries. The final product is an edited volume. Some scholars (Bettina, Vera, Lawrence) whom I met during this collaboration have set up the CORD network.

- Collaborated with legal scholars in Brazil, India and South Africa on transformative constitutionalism.  The outcome is an edited volume on the subject where I have written a chapter on Transformative Constitutionalism in India, and am also a co-author on a chapter on the legal aspects of religious freedom in the three countries.

- Co-Organizer with Mirjam Künkler (Princeton), Hanna Lerner (Tel Aviv University) and Asli Bali (UCLA Law School) of an international workshop on Constitution Making, Human Rights and Religion at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, Italy, July 9-13, 2012.

- Have applied for a Small Research Group grant with Mirjam Kunkler (Princeton) and Hanna Lerner (Tel Aviv Univeristy) on “Balancing Religious Accommodation and Human Rights in Constitution-Writing“ at ZiF Center for Interdisciplinary Research of Bielefeld University, Germany.

Leave a Reply