Brown University (United States)


The spread of Covid-19 across the globe has been accompanied by a parallel plague—that of discrimination, hostility, and violence towards minorities and immigrants—an unfortunately familiar pattern in the history of disease. We pose an empirically urgent, normatively salient question: How might we mitigate against the scapegoating of, and even encourage pro-social behavior towards, ethnic minorities on the part of majority ethnic groups in the context of the ongoing pandemic? We combine qualitative and quantitative methods to explore a relatively underemphasized factor—an inclusive nationalism. The dominant association of nationalism is with divisions, discrimination, and conflict. Yet nationalism has also been shown to be a powerful constructive force. The key question is how inclusively the boundaries of the nation are drawn. Drawing together and building on work across political science, sociology, economics, political theory, and social psychology, we show how a superordinate national solidarity that encompasses different ethnic groups can be leveraged to reduce the scapegoating of, and might even encourage prosocial behavior towards, minorities in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. We study these questions in India—a country characterized by competing inclusive, secular versus exclusive, Hindu nationalist definitions of the nation which has witnessed widespread ethnic scapegoating of Muslim minorities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Principal Investigators

Prerna Singh

Mahatma Gandhi Associate Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs, Brown University

Prerna Singh is Mahatma Gandhi Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Brown University. Singh sits on the academic advisory board of the Harvard-Yenching Institute, the steering committee of the Center for Contemporary South Asia at Brown, and is a fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and co-convenes the Brown-Harvard-MIT Joint Seminar in South Asian Politics. She studied at Princeton, Cambridge, and Delhi Universities, and taught previously at Harvard University. Singh has published numerous award-winning books and articles on questions of human development, public health, ethnicity, and nationalism. Her first book, How Solidarity Works for Welfare, was awarded best book prizes from both the American Political Science and the American Sociological Associations. Singh has received fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study of Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, the American Academy of Berlin, the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, the University of Pennsylvania, and the American Institute of Indian Studies. Singh has shared her research with scholarly, policy, and popular audiences in over a hundred lectures delivered across twenty different countries. Singh is working on a book that compares the control of infectious diseases across China and India through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Saurabh Pant

Assistant Professor, University of Essex

Saurabh Pant is an assistant professor (lecturer in UK terminology) in the Department of Government at the University of Essex. He previously was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse from 2018 to 2020, and obtained his PhD in politics from Princeton University in 2018. Pant's research focuses on identity, conflict, and militancy in divided societies. Some of his research has been published or is forthcoming in the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Theoretical Politics, and South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies. Pant received a BA in economics and mathematics from New York University and an MPA in public and economic policy from the London School of Economics.

Sebastian Łucek

Associate, IDinsight

Sebastian Łucek is an independent researcher and a senior associate at IDinsight, a global development research organisation, where he has conducted primary research on sanitation policy in India and health policy in Nigeria. Previously, Łucek gained field and research experience as an intern at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi and through work in India and Poland on multiple areas including education, governance, and ethnic conflict. His primary research interests include religion, nationalism and Identity, and the political economy of development. Sebastian received an AB in economics from Brown University, where he was a fellow of the Center for Contemporary South Asia.