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Pavithra Suryanarayan

Assistant Professor of International Political Economy


Pavithra Suryanarayan is an Assistant Professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Her research is motivated by the desire to understand how different forms of group-based inequality — class or status, for instance — shape political behavior and institutions in multi-ethnic countries like India and the United States. She studies these questions using methods in historical political economy that emphasize causal identification, spatial and survey analysis, and extensive archival research, in order to understand how economic and political actors have shaped institutional design and political coalitions at pivotal moments in history. 
Before joining Johns Hopkins University, she completed a PhD in political science at Columbia University. She also holds an MPP in public policy from the Goldman School at UC Berkeley and a BBA (Hons.) from the National University of Singapore. Her papers have been published or are forthcoming at the American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science ReviewComparative Political StudiesJournal of Politics, Party Politics, Perspectives on Politics and World Politics. Her research has been featured in the New York Times, Le MondeThe Economist, and The Hindu amongst others, and has won discipline-wide awards including the Mancur Olson award for the best dissertation in political economy, the Franklin L. Burdett/Pi Sigma Alpha award for the best paper presented at the American Political Science Association (APSA), the Editorial Best Paper award by Comparative Political Studies and the GESIS-Klingemann award for best paper on electoral politics.
Professor Suryanarayan is an editor and contributor to Broadstreet, an inter-disciplinary academic blog on historical political economy. She also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Historical Political Economy and as an associate editor of the Comparative Politics Newsletter for the CP section of APSA.
She is currently working on a book manuscript on Hollowing out the State.



  • India


  • International Political Economy
  • South Asia Studies

In the News

The origins of state capacity.

Pavithra Suryanarayan wrote in Broadstreet, 10/20

India COVID: Why Indian bosses overseas are sending aid.

Pavithra Suryanarayan quoted on BBC, 05/01

Franchise expansion and electoral mobilization: How caste and migration shaped India’s colonial politics.

Ritam Chaurey and Pavithra Suryanarayan wrote for Economic History Society, 04/12

Slavery, reconstruction, and bureaucratic capacity in the American South.

Pavithra Suryanarayan wrote in American Political Science Review, 12/14

How a southern Indian state crushed its coronavirus outbreak.

Pavithra Suryanarayan interviewed in The New York Times’ The Interpreter newsletter, 5/22