Student Panelist: Ajay Verghese

Meet our student panelist, Ajay Verghese!


Ajay Verghese

Political Science, George Washington University

Panel IV: Domestic Fragmentation 

Paper: “Peasant Revolts in the Princely States: The Naxalite Insurgency in Bastar and Telangana”

1. Please briefly introduce yourself.

I’m Ajay Verghese, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science at The George Washington University. I focus on comparative politics and my dissertation is about British colonialism and patterns of ethnic violence in India. I have broad research interests in South Asia, ethnic conflict, and ethnic violence, among other things. I’ll be Dr. Verghese by the end of the summer of 2012. I expect everyone to call me that – even my parents.

2. How did you get interested in your paper topic?

Even though I am Indian I had no particular interest in Indian politics. Then one day I decided that studying India would be a great opportunity to learn more about my culture. As  for my specific dissertation topic, I had a list of inchoate ideas which I presented to my advisor. A study of colonialism and ethnic violence was one of them. He shot down a few, then said about this one: “Oh, that sounds kind of interesting.” I went from there.

3. What was your research process? Do you have a tip that you would like to share?

I spent a year in India living in six very different cities in both the north and the south. I worked in five different archives, and I conducted about a hundred elite interviews. My best advice for researchers is to be aware of the fact that when you get into the field none of your ideas will make any sense. You will be very, very lost. This is completely normal. You’ll (probably) be fine in the long run.

4. Do you have any advice for other students who may be interested in submitting a paper for next year’s SAIS Asia Conference?

My main advice for young scholars is two-fold: find something interesting to study, and study it in an interesting way. Also remember: some topics are not researched for a reason.

5. What is your plan after graduation?

During the 2012-13 year I’ll be a Shorenstein Post Doctoral Fellow at Stanford University. After that, I plan to be a professor of political science.

6. If you can ask a question to someone – either dead or alive – what would you ask to whom?

I’d like to ask George Mallory if he made it to the top of Mount Everest. Hopefully he would not lie. That, or I’d like to ask British administrators in 19th century India what they thought about me writing a dissertation about them. 

Do you have more questions for Ajay? Or for SAC? Feel free to leave them on the comment section! Also, For posts on expert commentators, please follow this link; For more posts on student panelists, please follow this link.


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