Nikhar Gaikwad and Pavithra Suryanarayan — 2019 Franklin L. Burdette/Pi Sigma Alpha Award Recipients

The American Political Science Association (APSA) will present the Franklin L. Burdette/Pi Sigma Alpha Award to Dr. Nikhar Gaikwad and Dr. Pavithra Suryanarayan at the 2019 APSA Annual Meeting & Exhibition, the world’s largest gathering of political scientists and source for emerging scholarship in the discipline.  The $750 award, supported by Pi Sigma Alpha, recognizes the best paper presented at the previous year’s APSA Annual Meeting.

Nikhar Gaikwad is an Assistant Professor at Columbia University who specializes in international and comparative political economy, with a focus on the politics of economic policymaking, trade and migration, business-state relations, and identity.  He has a regional specialization in India, which he studies in comparative perspective with Brazil and other democracies.  His articles have been published in the American Journal of Political ScienceBritish Journal of Political Science, and the Quarterly Journal of Political Science.  Prior to joining Columbia University, he was a Fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University.  He received his PhD from Yale University.

Pavithra Suryanarayan is an Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).  She specializes in comparative political economy with a focus on identity, redistribution, and state development in India.  Her work combines quantitative analysis, including spatial and survey methods, with extensive archival research.  Pavi’s papers have been published or are forthcoming at the American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Politics, Party Politics, and World Politics.  She received a PhD in political science from Columbia University and her dissertation won the Mancur Olson Award for the best dissertation in political economy at the American Political Science Association in 2018.

Here is what the Award Committee had to say about their decision:

“Economic and Ethnic Determinants of Trade Preferences: Evidence from India” by Nikhar Gaikwad and Pavithra Suryanarayan is an empirically rich paper that makes two provocative and important arguments.  First, using multiple large surveys of Indian voters, the paper shows that although trade-liberalization is often understood to be elite-driven and harmful to lower-skilled workers, those workers may actually favor trade liberalization when their domestic environment discriminates against them.  Trade liberalization can provide new opportunities for economic advancement for members of ethnic groups who have historically experienced discrimination.  The second contribution lies in the paper’s assessment of whether individuals express solidarity with their co-ethnics when they consider who benefits and who loses from trade liberalization.  Drawing on a carefully-conducted original survey experiment, the paper provides evidence that individuals from privileged ethnic groups lack solidarity with their co-ethnics, focusing exclusively on self-interested calculations.  In contrast, ethnicity shaped the trade preferences of individuals from discriminated groups.  This is a striking finding, since we might expect both the privileged and the underprivileged to prioritize ethnic identity, either to uphold the status quo or to upend it.  The arguments of the paper are carefully developed and they have implications not only for politics in the world’s largest democracy, but also beyond the Indian context.  Scholars interested in labor markets, ethnicity, and trade liberalization will find much to admire in this powerfully argued piece of new scholarship.