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Call for Papers: South Asia from the Lens of Student Politics


Guest editors and seminar conveners: Jean-Thomas Martelli (CERI, Sciences Po Paris) and Kristina Garalytė (Institute of Asian and Transcultural Studies, Vilnius University).

Studies on student movements in various countries acknowledge the leading role taken by elite universities in the social sciences (Altbach 1992; Zhao 2004; LuescherMamashela 2016; Ketchley and Biggs 2016). Simultaneously, in the West sections of students do address the neoliberal turn in higher education which promote the introduction of tuition fees as well as cuts to public funding (Della Porta, forthcoming). While these trends may also hold true in the South Asian context (Martelli 2017), a variety of social movements in the region, revolving around both material and identity issues have also been fueled by marginalized sections of the educated youth (Garalytė 2016), thus corroborating the evidence of a plebeian upsurge in South Asian politics (Varshney 2000).

Thirty years after the last major scholarly account on student politics in South Asia (Hazary 1987), the seminar and special issue will explore the specificity of everyday student and youth politics in the subcontinent. The seminar and special issue will re-examine the validity of the claim that student politics entered in cycles of ideological depoliticization in the post-independence context (Shah 2004). Contributors will also engage with the argument that student politics serves as a spring board for prospective political leadership (Altbach 1970, 1992), making universities hotbeds of party and muscle politics (Ruud 2010) and places for the reproduction of various forms of dominance (Jeffrey 2010). Importantly, the seminar and special issue will aim at better understanding how student politics negotiate questions of gender, caste, language, ethnicity, community and class identities.

From a theoretical standpoint, the seminar and special issue will focus on South Asian universities as places of “contentious politics” (Tilly and Tarrow 2006) and “agonistic pluralism” (Mouffe 1999, 2013), where peaceful demonstrations go hand in hand with political violence and where students mobilize and negotiate divides on social, economic and status lines. While acknowledging the importance of demographic factors of the family in shaping students’ political endeavors (Kumar 2014), the seminar and special issue will also examine the relevance of specific campus-based cultures as distinct political phenomena.

All in all, the papers in the seminar and special issue will address a broad range of research questions through acknowledging the regional and national variability of movements across Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. On what issues and identities students mobilize in South Asia? What is the visibility and influence of student politics on society and political process? To which extent student politics is tied to party politics and broader socio-political networks? What means and methods of mobilization are employed by student activists? How student politics is affected by and reacts to neo-liberalism, consumerism and globalization?

The seminar and special issue will provide a platform for scholars conducting empirical research on student and youth politics and will seek to better understand student and youth politics in a larger comparative perspective.


Abstracts have to be sent to Jean-Thomas Martelli ( and Kristina Garalytė ( before April 1st, 2018. Selected contributors will be invited to participate in the seminar in Paris at the Center for South Asian Studies (Centre d’Études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud—CEIAS) at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (École des hautes études en sciences sociales—EHESS) in October 2018.


Altbach, Philip. 1992. “Higher Education, Democracy and Development: Implications for Newly Industrialized Countries.” Interchange 23(1-2): 143-163.

Della Porta, Donatella. Forthcoming. The Contentious Politics of Higher Education. Student Movements in Late Neoliberalism. Book synopsis presented at the Scuola Normale Superiore (SNS). Florence: 15-16 November 2017.

Garalytė, Kristina. 2016. Dalit Student Movement in India: From Identity Politics to Counter Culture Movement. Kaunas: Vytautas Magnus University.

Hazary, Subas Chandra. 1987. Student Politics in India. New Delhi: South Asia Books.

Martelli, Jean-Thomas. 2017. “JNU is not Just Where you go, it’s What you Become” Everyday Political Socialisation and Left Activism at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. London: Unpublished doctoral dissertation in Political Science and Political Sociology, King’s College London.

Luescher-Mamashela, Thierry M. 2015. “Theorising Student Activism in and Beyond the 20th Century: The Contribution of Philip G. Altbach.” Pp.33-49 in Student Engagement in Europe: Society, Higher Education and Student Governance, edited by Manja Klemenčič, Sjur Bergan and Rok Primožič. Strasbourg: Council of Europe higher education series. Vol. 20.

Ketchley, Neil and Michael Biggs. 2017. “The Educational Contexts of Islamist Activism: Elite Students and Religious Institutions in Egypt.” Mobilization 22(1), 57-76.

Jeffrey, Craig. 2010. Timepass: Youth, Class, and the Politics of Waiting in India. Stanford University Press.

Kumar, Sanjay. 2014. Indian Youth and Electoral Politics: An Emerging Engagement. New Delhi: SAGE publications India.

Mouffe, Chatal. 1999. “Deliberative Democracy or Agonistic Pluralism.” Social Research 66(3), 745-758. 

Mouffe, Chantal. 2013. Agonistics: Thinking the world politically. London, New York: Verso books.

Ruud, Arild Engelsen. 2010. “To Create a Crowd: Student Leaders in Dhaka.” Pp.70-95 in Power and Influence in India: Bosses, Lords and Captains, edited by Pamela Price and Arild Ruud Engelsen. London: Routledge.

Tilly, Charles and Sidney Tarrow. 2006. Contentious Politics. Boulder, London: Paradigm Publishers.

Varshney, Ashutosh. 2000. “Is India Becoming More Democratic?.” The Journal of Asian Studies 59(1), 3-25.

Zhao, Dingxin. 2004. The Power of Tiananmen: State-society Relations and the 1989 Beijing Student Movement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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