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Balakrishnan Rajagopal
Ford International Associate Professor of Law and Development
International Development Group

People > Faculty ProfiLes > Balakrishnan Rajagopal

Q. Who most influenced your work as a scholar of international development and why?

Rajagopal: My formative understanding of human rights in the development process was shaped considerably by Upendra Baxi, the leading Indian socio-legal scholar. His writings taught me powerfully how development for some involves suffering for others. My other influences were David Kennedy, Amartya Sen and William Fisher who were on my doctoral committee at Harvard Law School, and Duncan Kennedy, my ‘virtual’ committee member who influenced me much through his intellectual pugilism and personal generosity. Both Kennedys taught me to think seriously about the role of law in economic development and distribution, while Sen instilled in me a comprehensive sensibility about the dilemmas of development. Fisher encouraged me to continue the study of social movements in greater depth and guided me to link its study with the practices of the State and diverse ideas of development, which has continued to influence my scholarship.

Q. What is your research focus?

Rajagopal: My current research is in five areas: a) A comparative study of increasing judicial power in democracies and its consequences for the theory and practice of rights, democracy and development. In this project I am studying this shift in Brazil, India and South Africa; b) A research project on the conditions under which socio-economic rights are realized in contested conditions in complex societies. In this project, I am collaborating with India’s largest Dalit (so-called ‘untouchable’) rights group on the rights of women sanitation workers; c) A reinterpretive historical study of international human rights norms of ‘crimes against humanity’ exploring how the powerful position themselves beyond norms of accountability for mass crimes, and a normative argument for treating massive development failures as crimes against humanity; d) a study of displacement including through development-induced displacement caused by large development projects; e) An exploration of how international law has an impact on globalization and multi-level governance, including at the level of cities and countries, in planning and economic development.

Q. Please tell us about your most recent publications of note.

Rajagopal: Accountability of States: Beyond Sovereignty as Responsibility, Netherlands International law Quarterly (forthcoming, 2006).

Rethinking Development in the 21st Century: Towards a New International Order, Third World Quarterly (forthcoming, 2006).

Invoking the Rule of Law: International Discourses forthcoming in Rule of Law in Conflict Management: Security, Development and Human Rights in the 21st Century (Agnes Hurwitz ed., International Peace Academy, Lynne Reiner, forthcoming 2006).

Q. What are some of your most recent public lectures?

Rajagopal: “International Law in the post-development era: Thinking beyond WTO Reform”, Yale Law School, November 27, 2006

“Law and Counter-hegemonic Globalization”, NYU Law School and New York Law School, October 20, 2006

“International Law, Local Social Movements and Barriers to Innovation”, Annual meeting of the International Law Association, New York, October 27, 2006