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The Fallacies and Flaws of Area Studies in India


  • Varun Sahni

    (The author is Vice-Chancellor, University of Jammu, Jammu & Kashmir, India. E-mail:


Area studies programmes were established in Indian universities in two waves. The first wave emanated from an individual initiative of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1955 and the second from a committee set up by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in April 1963, soon after India’s military defeat at the hands of China in 1962. While a large number of area studies programmes now exist in Indian universities, they have, from their earliest days, been handicapped by four conceptual fallacies and nine operational flaws. The fallacies are related to the subject matter, disciplinary focus, terms of reference and policy relevance, and the flaws are—the absence of theory, lack of multidisciplinary perspectives, analyses that are based on macro-level research, scarce fieldwork, deficiencies in language skills, lack of quantitative research projects, event-driven research agendas, predominance of secondary sources in research, and taught courses which are too broad in their formulation and too narrow in their subject matter. Each fallacy is fundamental; the flaws, taken together, have been fatal for the area studies programmes in India. The article ends with seven suggestions on how these programmes could be revitalized.

Suggested Citation

  • Varun Sahni, 2009. "The Fallacies and Flaws of Area Studies in India," International Studies, , vol. 46(1-2), pages 49-68, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:intstu:v:46:y:2009:i:1-2:p:49-68

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