The Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program recognizes an exceptional group of both established and emerging scholars, journalists, and authors with the goal of strengthening U.S. democracy, driving technological and cultural creativity, exploring global connections and global ruptures, and improving both natural and human environments.
Prerna Singh is is Mahatma Gandhi Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies and faculty fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute. She is the author of How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India. Singh has also been named a Fall 2018 Berlin Prize Fellow. This fellowship will support her work on “a book that melds comparative politics, historical sociology, and public health to explore why polities with similar epidemiological, socioeconomic, and demographic conditions have been characterized by strikingly different levels of effectiveness in countering equivalently severe challenges posed by a disease.” Her award-winning book, “How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India,” explored why some places develop more inclusive welfare regimes and deliver better social outcomes than others, and argued that the power of collective identity can spur nations to prioritize social welfare.
Do you have any advice for students in political science, including tips on how to find funding and support for research projects?
Singh: My first book, How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India traced the dramatic divergences in social welfare across Indian states to variations in the strength of subnational solidarity. In a significant expansion of my empirical domain of analysis, in the new book project I plan to examine these questions of the differences in the nature of popular responses, and consequently effectiveness of health care provision through a comparative analysis of national and subnational units in China and India. As in my previous work, I adopt a historically-grounded approach, seeking to understand the causes for the differential control of disease beginning at the turn of the nineteenth century in paired cities located across China and India, as well as in provinces within India; and into the twentieth century and upto the present day across the sovereign states of China and India.
“I fuse insights across disciplines to argue that historically a public health intervention has been more likely to elicit popular compliance if it is ideationally embedded in a motivational frame that is authoritatively communicated by an institution that can penetrate local society.”
How will the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program impact your research and overall career?
Singh: In addition to being a tremendous and humbling honor, the Carnegie fellowship is a wonderful gift for my research, which has focused on questions of social welfare, public health, identity, ethnicity and nationalism. In particular, the Carnegie fellowship will allow me the time and research support to make substantial headway on my second major book project, tentatively titled ‘The State, Society and Disease: The Control of Contagion across China and India’.
What research topics do you primarily focus on? How can people access your work?
Singh: In the book I hope to put forward a novel, multidisciplinary, mixed methods perspective towards understanding the historic differences in states’ abilities to encourage societal compliance with health technologies even across different political regimes. I fuse insights across disciplines to argue that historically a public health intervention has been more likely to elicit popular compliance if it is ideationally embedded in a motivational frame that is authoritatively communicated by an institution that can penetrate local society. I specify two broad forms – cognitive and affective – that a motivational frame might take. On the one hand, I draw on work on cognitive heuristics and biases in neuroscience and social psychology to hypothesize that there is more likely to be popular mobilization around a public health intervention if it is presented in cognitive alignment rather than as a rupture with, or repudiation of, established understandings and practices associated with a disease.
On the other hand, I build on the scholarship on framing across sociology and behavioral economics, to suggest that alternately, or in addition, a public health intervention is more likely to elicit popular mobilization if it is affectively embedded, for instance, in a shared identity, such as nationalism. This ideational embedding of the health intervention in a motivational frame is a necessary first step. In order for mobilization to occur, however, these motivational frames need to be authoritatively communicated to local society. Drawing on the rich scholarship on state-society relations across comparative politics and sociology, I hypothesize that this transmission, which often involves active translation or (re)construction of the frames, occurs most effectively via the means of an institution – state or non-state, formal or informal – that has the capacity to penetrate society.
- Read more about Prerna Singh here
- See full announcement: Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program Recognizes 31 Scholars