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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

More India, please?

One thing that has long puzzled me is the contrast between the proliferation of Chinese-US programs (which I will mean in a very broad way to include centers, exchanges, professorships, etc.) in U.S. law schools and the relative absence of similar India-US focused projects.  Having now spent a few months living in India, the contrast puzzles me even more.  The US and Indian legal communities share a common language, a common legal heritage, and a common commitment to democracy and human rights.  As a multiethnic, religiously plural democracy, India confronts many of the same fundamental legal questions we do.  And yet there are very few institutional connections between the respective legal communites generally, and among legal academics more specifically.  Maybe "puzzled" is not the right word, because I have a few ideas about why things have developed in this way.  The most obvious explanation is no doubt money, both in the form of alumni donations specifically earmarked for the support of such programs and money flowing from either China or India to the U.S.  My sense is that there is far more money out there eager to foster U.S.-China ties than U.S.-India initiatives, but I wonder if that would continue to be the case if institutions made some effort to actually go out and generate interest.  On the Indian side, there is perhaps a lingering suspicion (resentment?) of the United States among intellectuals.  Ramachandra Guha talks about this sentiment in his incredible history of independent India, which I plan to review in a separate post.  Finally, a lot of the sort of work American legal academics do is not really done in Indian law schools but in other departments.  I suspect this is true in China as well, though.  Whatever the reasons, building greater institutional connections with the Indian legal community strikes me as a worthwhile project for U.S. law schools.

Posted by Eduardo Penalver on March 21, 2012 at 08:21 AM | Permalink


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Also, Marc Galanter at Wisconsin, Martha Nussbuam at Chicago, and Jay Krishnan at Indiana, Bloomington. Theyre out there, but not in the same numbers as the China scholars and programs.

Posted by: Eduardo Penalver | Mar 21, 2012 12:32:55 PM

FWIW, HLS has pretty strong connections with India, most notably in the work of David Wilkins and our Program on the Legal Profession http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/plp/. My work on medical tourism has also brought a lot of Indian connections.

Posted by: I. Glenn Cohen | Mar 21, 2012 11:29:18 AM

"The US and Indian legal communities share a common language, a common legal heritage, and a common commitment to democracy and human rights."

For many people, I suspect this is a good reason to focus on China, both in that it's more exciting to learn about something that's more different (study abroad is more exciting in France than in England to many, I'd guess), and there is the thought that this sort of exchange can have more of an educational or democratizing impact on China while that's "not needed" in India. I really don't know if such views would be justified, but not only would they not surprise me, it would surprise me if they were not common. When you add in some generic tendencies to follow trends rather than set new paths, (in addition to the money flowing from China, and it being seen as the better business opportunity) I'd think that would be all the explanation we need.

Posted by: Matt | Mar 21, 2012 11:19:46 AM

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