Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

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Awadhendra Sharan
Baidik Bhattacharya
Prathama Banerjee


Since its inception, CSDS has been recognized as a leading research institute of the global south. It is committed to the study of transformational dynamics, which enables informed future projections as well as intelligent retrospection and learning. Set up in 1963 to study processes of modernization and development, CSDS achieved smooth generational transition in the 21st century. Even as it continues to study change as the primary phenomenon of its concern, including in earlier focus areas of democracy, caste, religion and popular culture, it now pays equal attention to the technological shaping of the world, inter-media forms, changing modes of urban life, transmuting social identities, pre-colonial intellectual traditions and environmental issues. CSDS believes that ideas grow out of everyday thoughts and practices by which ordinary people negotiate and reinvent their worlds and generate alternative systems and imaginations. By attending to and critically articulating these practices, CSDS seeks to challenge routes of social, political and cultural changes which are accepted as ‘normal’. To this end, CSDS nurtures a productive tension between rigorous scholarly work and living social movements, academic engagement and political commitment, specialized publications and policy and media dialogues.

CSDS boasts of an interdisciplinary faculty, with expertise in diverse disciplines, research themes and methodologies. It also has a research design that facilitates constant mobilization of outside expertise and personnel – through collaborations and networks, sponsoring of new research by young scholars, a vibrant visiting fellowship system, setting up of programs and projects around new topics of relevance, annual eminent visitorships by global academics and so on. This highly diversified research capacity enables CSDS to study transformation from all perspectives and angles: 1. Politics/Policy: CSDS engages with politics in fields traditionally deemed political – elections, political parties, state policy, political economy etc. Equally, it believes that politics happens in unlikely sites, such as cinema, social media, language, urban waste and so on. CSDS also believes that politics and policy must be addressed at the short-term level of fast changing current affairs as well as the medium and long-term level of battle of ideas, ideologies, infrastructures and lifestyles. 2. Society/Identity: CSDS studies changing social dynamics in south Asia by attending to questions of social violence, caste rituals, religious traditions, secularism, youth culture, gender participation in politics, new media forms and so on. Based on a critique of traditional social sciences, CSDS brings to the table both ‘hard’ sociological facts and the ‘soft’ aspects of mentality, history, habit and dreams that together make up social life. CSDS believes that only thus can we understand and influence changing mores of civic life and everyday social relationships in our contemporary. 3. Culture/Materiality: Apart from studying literature, cinema, radio, songs and aesthetic theory, the traditional domain of cultural theorists, CSDS also researches material transformations in urban ecologies and media and information infrastructures, in the belief that the concept of culture must be interpreted widely to encompass modes of creativity, both self-conscious and otherwise, that pervade ordinary, everyday life. At the same time, CSDS studies at depth Indian intellectual and philosophical traditions, in the belief that we must recover our lost world of ideas and cultural virtues if we want to enhance our public life and become free intellectual subjects.

The CSDS values its autonomy and continuing critical presence in the public domain for which it is widely respected. It seeks to give its faculty and friends complete freedom of thought and dissent. As for outreach, CSDS runs three peer-reviewed journals in two languages, proudly holds a massive election data-base which is accessible to scholars of democracy all over the world, holds annual teaching and capacity-building workshops for young researchers. CSDS faculty and programs also have a media presence and regularly contribute to opinion-making and critical public commentary.