Nikhil Kalyanpur Receives the Edward S. Corwin Award

The Edward S. Corwin Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) to honor the best doctoral dissertation in the field of public law.   

Nikhil Kalyanpur is an Assistant Professor at the International Relations Department of the London School of Economics.  He researches topics at the intersection of law, business-government relations and economic statecraft.  More specifically, he focuses on the use of transnational institutional tools to achieve geo-strategic ends.  He received a PhD in Government from Georgetown University and was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University’s Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance for the 2020-2021 academic year.  Before graduate school, he studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Brown University and worked as a Research Associate at Harvard Business School.  He is an avid Manchester United fan and fried chicken lover, often partaking in both addictions at the same time.

 Citation from the Award Committee: 

Nikhil Kalyanpur’s dissertation, “Liberalism Outsourced: Why Oligarchs and Autocrats Fight in Foreign Courts,” stood out among a large number of excellent nominees in the field of public law.  Kalyanpur explores a puzzling aspect of economic interdependence and global governance – the use of courts in liberal jurisdictions to settle disputes between plutocrats and autocrats from emerging market economies.  He asks when and why plutocrats and autocrats use extraterritorial litigation before courts in liberal jurisdictions to settle their domestic disputes.  He argues that the balance of power between the state and the plutocratic class determines when they turn to litigation in liberal jurisdictions.  Specifically, the turn to extraterritorial litigation is more likely to occur when the state and plutocrats have similar power resources.  In such circumstances, if the losing side in a domestic political battle absconds abroad, the winning side may pursue their wealth abroad by bringing litigation before courts in liberal jurisdictions.  This helps explain why we see, for instance, so many Russian state owned enterprises and deposed oligarchs suing one another in courts in London.

Kalyanpur’s dissertation truly pioneers new terrain – pushing the discipline to explore the international and comparative political economy of oligarchy.  His work pushes us to consider how the transnational legal market blurs the boundaries between domestic and international disputes – allowing authoritarians to pursue expatriate oligarchs and allowing those oligarchs to organize their business affairs such that they can benefit from the rule of law protections that liberal jurisdictions provide.  These elite practices may have important implications for the stability of autocratic regimes and the potential for institutional reform. Kalyanpur’s dissertation is not only theoretically rich, it is also deeply researched and beautifully written.  His engaging prose and detailed accounts of the stories behind extraterritorial litigation involving Russian oligarchs in the 1990s and 2000s gives us access to a secretive world.  Kalyanpur has made a great contribution to the field and his work deserves to be widely read.

APSA thanks the committee members for their service: R. Daniel Kelemen (chair) of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, Dr. Rachel A. Cichowski of the University of Washington, and Dr. Shannon Ishiyama Smithey of Westminster College.

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