Student Panelist: Constantino H. Xavier

Meet our student panelist, Constantino H. Xavier!


Constantino H. Xavier

International Affairs/South Asia Studies, Johns Hopkins SAIS

Panel II: Security and Strategy

Paper: “The Domestic Sources of India’s Great Power Ambition”


1. Please briefly introduce yourself.

I’m a Ph.D. candidate in South Asian Studies at SAIS and research on India’s foreign policy and security in South Asia. Sense of humor is the most difficult thing to assimilate when you start living in a new country, so when first moved to the US in 2009 I watched Fox News every night for my first three months. I get most American jokes now. I’m a citizen of Portugal and Germany, and an overseas citizen of India. I’m also made in Brazil.


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

I lived 4 years in India, where I studied at Jawaharlal Nehru University, one of the world’s last leftist bastions besides Cuba and North Korea. While working at the Portuguese Embassy and for the EU delegation in New Delhi, I noticed many foreign diplomats complaining about “India’s obsession with great power status”. So I started researching and writing about the topic and this is the product which I then presented as a course paper.


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

Country experience and fieldwork are essential if you want your expertise to offer added value and insights. It’s not always easy to live abroad for a long time, but it always pays off, in one way (monetarily) or the other (intellectually) – and preferably both. I was lucky to have a mentor back in Portugal who told me that the fastest way to get into an American doctoral program was to… go to India.


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

Write about something that intrigues and puzzles you, and which also has moral, ethical relevance. And take advantages of your various summer, spring and winter break trips abroad to take travel notes, perhaps keep a blog. Keep writing. Eventually it will all make sense. Either to you or someone else.


5. What is your plan after graduation?

As all PhD students who are half-way through, I think I’m supposed to say something like “open an orphanage in India” or “become a baker”. I’m enjoying my TA experience in IR theories at SAIS, so perhaps I’ll go for an academic career in International Relations and South Asia, always with a strong policy-orientation. My secret dream: taxi driver.


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

I would ask Thucydides if the Athenians really said all that stuff to the Melians or if he just made it up so as to be (wrongly) quoted as “the first realist”.




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