This panel will rethink the role of institutions in South Asian through the concepts of historical institutionalism and path dependence. It will re-examine the post-colonial experience and its contribution to the theory of historical institutionalism and path dependence.
Scholars working within the tradition of historical institutionalism have sought to examine how and why 'history matters' when it comes to explaining the different factors and processes that trigger and underlie institutional development over time, focusing on the choices actors make under the constraints imposed by particular historical contexts, and how these choices can have an impact on subsequent outcomes. The related concept of path dependence has been employed to analyse the emergence and maintenance of unique institutional configurations, as well as explain institutional variation across time and space. South Asian states shaped by colonialism and shared common histories are ideal cases for comparative analysis. Although historical institutionalist approaches have been increasingly used to examine the processes of democratization, affirmative action, militarization and the role of elites, there is still very limited self-reflection on the use of these methodological and conceptual tools. This panel brings together scholars from political science, sociology, economic history and religious studies working within historical institutionalism and path dependence on South Asian to contribute to developing new and comparative insights into contemporary political, social and economic phenomena. It will reflect on the methodological issues that arise when employing this mode of analysis, and assess its strengths and weaknesses within South Asia and beyond.