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Rumela Sen has a PhD in political science, specializing in comparative politics, with a regional interest in South Asia. Her current research addresses issues of political violence, post-conflict reconstruction, grassroots peacebuilding, democratic deepening and identity politics at the intersection of political science, economics, sociology and South Asian study. Her dissertation, titled Bullets to Ballots: Maoists and the Lure of Democracy in India, examines how insurgents give up arms to join the very political process that they had once sought to overthrow. She compares the protracted processes of recruitment and retirement of Maoist rebels in two conflict zones in north and south India. She shows that rebels quit through informal exit networks that co-evolve with legitimate/state and illegitimate/rebel politics in the gray zones of insurgency-democracy interface. Maoist retirement is very high in the southern conflict zone due to emergence of what she calls a ‘harmonic’ exit network that weaves together multiple stakeholders in an amalgam of roles and alliances, which work in sync to build momentum for exit and manage myriad uncertainties of reintegration. In contrast, retirement from the same Maoist party is very low in the northern conflict zone due to development of ‘discordant’ exit network that exacerbates mistrust and fear among key players, deterring retirement significantly. The emergence of two different exit networks is contingent on the pre-war social bases of insurgency, the horizontal and vertical ties by insurgent organization and on the insurgency-democracy interaction. As PBRC fellow at SUA, she will be pursuing these issues, working on a few single- and co-authored papers and her book manuscript.
In addition, Rumela teaches an interdisciplinary course titled Introduction to Peace Studies in Fall. This course examines how the pursuit of peace has been made even more complicated in recent times by the changing nature of war. The predominant form of conflict has evolved from national armies fighting each other (inter-state wars) to rebels, extremists, gangs and organized crime fighting for political and economic control (intra-state or civil wars). Thus scholars and practitioners of peace have connected prospects of peace to democracy, development, inequality, human rights, political exclusion, corruption, sustainability, capitalism and so on. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the evolving means and paths to peace and evaluate how our knowledge of peace is both enabled and constrained by a multitude of larger socioeconomic and political factors. In Spring Rumela will offer another course on political economy of conflict, with a regional focus on South Asia.