This is an invitation to a Bosch Lecture in Public Policy: “States, Societies, and the Control of Contagion in China and India” (Dienstag, 19. Februar 2019, 19:30 Uhr, American Academy in Berlin, Am Sandwerder 17-19 | D-14109 Berlin) by Professor Prerna Singh (Mahatma Gandhi Associate Professor of Political Science and International Public Affairs, Brown University).
Historically and today, infectious diseases have struck fear in the hearts of humans. This is because of their consequences: infectious diseases have been the single largest cause of human mortality and morbidity and inflicted enormous social, political and economic upheaval. But also because of their mode of transmission—passing and disseminating, often rapidly, via virtually invisible pathogens across even tightly policed borders. And though disease pathogens do not respect political boundaries, a population’s vulnerability to them has historically been determined by borders. So, why have polities with similar epidemiological, socioeconomic, and demographic conditions been characterized by strikingly different levels of containment? In this lecture, Prerna Singh draws on comparative historical analyses across China and India to argue—against dominant explanations about the development of, and access to health technologies—that the popular adoption of health technologies and the control of disease have hinged on whether new technologies are embedded in culturally specific motivational frames that are authoritatively communicated by a local institution.
Prerna Singh is Mahatma Gandhi Associate Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs at Brown University, faculty fellow at Brown’s Watson Institute, and co-convener of the Brown-Harvard-MIT Joint Seminar in South Asian Politics. She completed her PhD in politics at Princeton University, the tripos in social and political studies at the University of Cambridge, and BA in economics at Delhi University. Singh’s work fuses insights from across social psychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics, anthropology, and history to specify the role of identities, ideas, and institutions in explaining why states emphasize social welfare and why societies become amenable to development interventions. Her book How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India (Cambridge, 2016) was awarded the American Political Science Association’s Woodrow Wilson Prize for the best book published in politics and international relations, and the American Sociological Association’s Barrington Moore Prize for the best book published in comparative historical sociology.