Dr James Chiriyankandath

Contact details

Dr James Chiriyankandath
PhD (SOAS, University of London)
Position/Fellowship type:
Senior Research Fellow
Fellowship term:
19-Oct-2009 to 30-Sep-2018
Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Home institution:
Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Institute Of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, Senate House, Malet Street London WC1E 7HU
020 8348 3193
Email address:

Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Colonies & Colonization, emigration & immigration, Contemporary History, International Relations, Modern History , Political Institutions, Politics
Asia, Middle East
Summary of research interests and expertise:

The politics, international relations and contemporary history of South Asia and the Middle East; nationalism, particularly Zionism and Indian nationalism; Indian foreign policy; electoral and party politics in South Asia; human rights and post-colonial development. I have co-edited Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, the premier comparative politics journal published in the UK, since 2006.

Project summary relevant to Fellowship:

I'm part of an international team working on "Expanding, Not Shrinking Social Programmes: The Politics of New Policies to Tackle Poverty and Inequality in Brazil, India, China and South Africa", a project (2012-16) of the ESRC (UK) Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures initiative that is based at the Institute. I’ve authored two papers arising from this research, one of which was presented at the Development Studies Association conference in London in November 2014.

I'm also conducting research on Indian politics, especially on the Congress Party that led the government until May 2014. Papers focusing on the party’s performance in south India were presented at international workshops on the 2014 Indian general election at the School of Oriental & African Studies and King’s College, University of London, in June 2014, one of which is being revised for a book on the elections and the state of Indian politics being edited for publication by Professor Mujibur Rehman of Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi for publication in 2016. Another, analysing the absence of ‘safe seats’ in the Indian Lok Sabha was presented at a conference at the Institute of Asia & Pacific Studies, University of Nottingham, in July 2014.

I recently completed a decade-long research project critically examining the reaction of individuals and communities to nationalism, and the tension between nationalism and liberal universal values. It views the phenomenon of nationalism through the prism of two nationalist movements in the first half of the twentieth century that had a profound impact on the Middle East, South Asia and the wider world – Zionism and Indian nationalism.

Current book projects include Contemporary South Asia: A History since 1977, a volume in The Wiley-Blackwell History of the Contemporary World series, and The Politics of Poverty Reduction in India. The Experience of the UPA government, 2004 to 2014.

Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
01-Jan-2017 Zionists, Indian Nationalists and the Politics of Belonging: Imagining Nations, Creating States


Imagining Nations, Creating States explores the phenomenon of nationalism through the prism of two nationalist movements that have had a profound impact on the Middle East, South Asia and the wider world – Zionism and Indian nationalism. It sets out to explain the longing to belong that makes people embrace a cause demanding not just great personal commitment but the abandonment of homes and the dissolution of communities. It also examines how individual Zionists and Indian nationalists sought to address the intolerance and exclusion that disfigures the face of nationalism and lends it its malign capacity to generate hatred and conflict.

Focusing on the half-century preceding the independence and partition of India and Palestine in 1947/48, the book does this through considering aspects of the lives, writings and political activity of several Zionists and Indian nationalists, as well as the story of how an ancient community of Indian Jews, the Cochin Jews, uprooted themselves to go to Israel. It illumines the paradoxes of nationalism using biography, community history, the fascinating story of the encounter between Zionism and Indian nationalism, and the efforts of those in India and Palestine who strove to reconcile the intolerant impulses in nationalism with avowedly universal liberal values and a secular, pluralist state.

01-Jun-2015 The 2015 Annual Register: World Events 2014, 256th edition

Edited Book

Chapter VIII South Asia and the Indian Ocean. South Asia (India-Pakistan-Bangladesh-Sri Lanka-Nepal-Bhutan), pp. 271-288.

08-May-2015 Key Concepts in Modern Indian Studies

Edited Book

Entry on 'Malabari'. In Gita Dharampal-Frick et al (ed), Key Concepts in Modern Indian Studies (Delhi: Oxford University Press).

20-Nov-2014 Parties and Political Change in South Asia

Edited Book

Introduction to an edited book version of a special issue of Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, vol. 52, issue 1, Feb. 2014, pp. 1-6

20-Feb-2014 Politics in the Developing World, 4th edition

Edited Book

Chapter 2 Colonialism and Post-Colonial Development, pp. 29-43.

01-Jan-2009 Routledge Handbook of Religion and Politics

Edited Book

Chapter 6 Hinduism, pp. 79-91.

01-Jan-2008 Nationalism, religion and community: A.B. Salem, the politics of identity and the disappearance of Cochin Jewry

Journal articles

Journal of Global History, Volume 3, Pt. 1, pp. 21-42.

This article considers how the existence of an ancient community, the Jews of Cochin on India’s Malabar coast, was transformed by the force of two powerful twentieth-century nationalisms – Indian nationalism and Zionism. It does so through telling the story of a remarkable individual, A. B. Salem, a lawyer, politician, Jewish religious reformer, and Indian nationalist, who was instrumental in promoting the Zionist cause and facilitating the mass migration of the Cochin Jews to Israel. Salem’s story illustrates how the prioritization and translation of kinds of identity into the public sphere is fluid and contingent upon a variety of circumstances, personal as well as the outcome of changes in the wider world.

Publications available on SAS-space

Publications available in Senate House Libraries

Consultancy reports:

Date Details
2015 Varieties of Democracy Project

Country expert on project to assess democracy worldwide co-hosted by the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and the Kellogg Institute at the University of Notre Dame, USA.

Government/policy work:

Date Details
South Asia Advisory Board

Board of consultative experts convened by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to advise on UK relations with South Asia.

Relevant Events

Related events:

Date Details
25-Jun-2015 The Emergency: 40 years on

Day workshop co-sponsored by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and the King's India Institute marking the 40th anniversary of the imposition of a state of Internal Emergency in India in 1975.

01-Nov-2014 The Congress Party, the politics of poverty and the policies of the UPA government

Paper presented in a panel on "The politics of tackling poverty and inequality in the BRICS: lessons for development studies" at the Development Studies Association Annual Conference, Institute of Education, University of London.

03-Jul-2014 The relative absence of safe parliamentary seats in India

Presentation of paper at an international workshop, The Unexpected Result? #Indiavotes2014 post-election workshop, 3rd July 2014

11-Jun-2014 The South in the 2014 elections: National parties and regional politics

International workshop at the King's India Institute, King's College, University of London, 11th June 2014.

10-Jun-2014 ‘Yes, but not in the South’: national parties and regional politics

International workshop on the 2014 Indian general election, SOAS South Asia Institute, University of London

01-Jan-2012 What happened to “garibi hatao”? The Congress Party and the politics of poverty

Panel on Political parties and change in South Asia, 22nd European Conference for South Asian Studies, ISCTE-Lisbon University, Portugal, 25th-28th July 2012.

01-Jan-2012 Gandhi, Nehru and the bi-national Zionists: Palestine, religious pluralism and national identity

Paper presented at the South Asia History Seminar, SOAS, University of London, 31st January 2012.

01-Jan-2011 Kerala Assembly Elections 2011: Identity and Interest vs. Charismatic Leadership?

Paper presented at Workshop on Recent Indian State Elections, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, 27th June 2011.

01-Jan-2011 Imagining Nations – Creating States: Belonging and Excluding

Paper presented to Colloquium at the Department of Political Science, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg, Tuesday, 22nd November 2011.

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