International Research Seminar: Shifting Geographies of Expertise and Policymaking

Sarah Jessup's picture
May 26, 2021 to August 10, 2021
New York, United States
Subject Fields: 
Asian History / Studies, Political Science, Public Policy, South Asian History / Studies, Public Health

The India China Institute (ICI) will sponsor an international research seminar in 2021-2 on the changing relationships between expertise and policymaking in India and China and beyond.


In the last two decades, relationships between experts and policymaking have been transformed in both India and China.  The response to the COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps the most vivid of many instances that illuminate these shifting institutional, cultural, and epistemological contours. An increasing reliance on technical expertise for governance is juxtaposed alongside changing demands on what constitutes as relevant expertise.  This has led to the formation of new epistemic communities and infrastructures for knowledge production in conjunction with novel institutional frameworks for mobilizing expertise for policymaking.  In this seminar, we hope to explore debates over the complex and often contested relationships between expertise and political authority.  Some of the questions we hope to discuss include:


o   Who is seen as possessing the authority to provide knowledge for public policy decisions?  What kinds of expertise and knowledge have been privileged and what has been sidelined?  What kinds of hierarchies has this inscribed, and at what costs?

o   What are the locations of knowledge producers deemed relevant to policymaking? What is the role of transnational networks and grassroots movements?

o   How is expertise mobilized for public reasoning? Through what institutional practices and media technologies do experts and decisionmakers speak to each other? 

o   How are policy decisions justified?  What types of evidence and styles of argumentation are deemed credible?  How are settlements reached in the face of disagreement among experts, and among experts and decisionmakers?


ICI invites applications from researchers and practitioners who will address these questions about the politics of knowledge production and how they inform policymaking.  The seminar hopes to shed light on the shifting implicit and explicit contracts between epistemic authority and political authority at various scales: local, national, regional, and global.  We are interested in empirical research on communities, institutions, and networks of experts, including the highly visible and the marginal; on their relationships with public decision-making; and flows of tangible and intangible knowledge products such as data, models, patents, and papers, especially among countries and networks within the global South.


The seminar will be interdisciplinary, drawing on those trained in relevant social science disciplines (such as political science, science and technology studies, sociology, geography, and anthropology) or in professional programs (such as design, public policy, and others). We are especially interested in those whose work interrogates the fields of public health; urban planning; social policy (education, housing, welfare); environment and sustainability. A PhD (or in some fields of practice, an MA) in a relevant field is required; the seminar is open to both recent and more established scholars and practitioners.  For questions about the application process, please write to


A selection committee will review applications and invite eight scholars or practitioners who are currently based in universities, research institutes, or professional organizations in China or India, and four participants who are based elsewhere in the world (including the United States). 


The research seminar will meet twice a month on zoom from October 2021 to May 2022, with an in-person workshop tentatively planned for March 2022. Each participant will be expected to present their research in one of the seminar sessions, actively participate in all discussions, attend the in-person workshop, and contribute a research paper to an edited volume that will be produced at the end of the seminar.


The fellowship award comes with a $5,000 payment (with an option to receive the funds as reimbursement for research expenses) and fully paid travel and room and board for the workshop.


Applications will be reviewed beginning August 10, with selected participants notified by early September.  


Application Process

Interested applicants are invited to fill out this form and provide the following:

·  updated CV

·  proposal (no longer than 2,000 words) stating the central question, methodology of the project, and how it will make a significant contribution

·  a curated bibliography (no longer than 1,000 words) that will help us understand your (inter)disciplinary approach

·  names and contact information for two references






Contact Email: