The Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy is delighted to welcome two new Visiting Fellows from January 2021:
Rusha Das is a PhD student of public policy at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA). She has been awarded the Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship for research fellowship for the year 2020-21. Her dissertation focusses on understanding the political dynamics involved in changes associated with India’s EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) regulation from a neo-Gramscian perspective. She examines the notion of hegemonic stability and the mechanisms through which counter hegemonic forces operate that potentially makes the EIA regulation quite dynamic. Her other research interest focusses on everyday negotiations between state and society in urban India. For post-colonial countries like India the boundaries between the state and society are described as blurred, a false dichotomy, a spongiform interface (Nugent, 1994; Gupta 1995; Harris-White, 1997). Rusha’s work is a multi-cited ethnographic study, where she examines the role of ward councillors as political mediators between the municipal corporation and the citizens.
As a visiting fellow at the Albert Hirschman Centre, Rusha will be working on environmental referendums in the context of EIA in Switzerland. She will examine how these referendums provide spaces for public access and participation. What discourses are used and how do such discourses facilitate or constraint participation. She will specifically focus on the discursive strategies used by different environmental groups and the mechanisms through which these group discourses shape the EIA regulation in Switzerland.
Prior to joining IIMA, Rusha has worked as an Assistant Professor and taught courses on public policy, research methodology at various management institutions in Mumbai.
Alice el-Wakil is a postdoctoral researcher in political theory at the University of Zurich. She is also an associated researcher on the demoscan project and a co-founder and managing board member of the association for researchers in democracy studies DemocracyNet. Before defending her dissertation in December 2019 (political science, University of Zurich), she was the doctoral fellow of the Centre for democracy studies Aarau and held visiting research positions at the European University Institute in Florence and at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She also benefitted from visiting student positions at the Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Toronto while getting her BA and MA in political science at the University of Geneva.
Alice el-Wakil’s research focuses on normative democratic theory, and especially on questions about how institutions and political processes, both “traditional” and “innovative,” can help us better translate democratic principles into practice. Her articles developing new approaches to referendums and initiatives and highlighting why, despite their bad press, these popular vote processes ought to be reconsidered as valuable ways to foster democracy have been published in Democratic Theory, the Journal of Deliberative Democracy, Representation, and the Swiss Political Science Review. She has also co-edited two special issues on the topic.
During her fellowship at the Albert Hirschman Centre, she will be working on her book project, Government with the People, on the value of popular vote processes for democratic systems.