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The Centre for Public Affairs and Critical Theory (C-PACT) at Shiv Nadar University is engaged in research, and public dissemination of that research in an accessible form, on issues of deep concern to the marginalized and disadvantaged sections of Indian society. It focuses on issues of significance for the Indian people that have not received the kind of critical attention they deserve.

The Centre has undertaken research on an initial set of deeply inter-connected core themes concerning some of India’s most important but neglected public goods, critically significant for the lives and livelihoods of millions, as also for the very future of India’s much-coveted growth process: land, water, agriculture and health. This is high quality research produced through a unique process, reflecting its ultimate goal of engaging the policy space on these issues. This process is based on the understanding that policy is not just produced in the corridors of power but also in the farms and factories, the homes and hearths of ordinary people, through their lived experience. The research team at C-PACT works in this understanding and conducts research through a deep engagement, not only with government and academia, but also primary stakeholders.

Inspired by the social science tradition of critical theory, C-PACT’s research is oriented towards discovering the most effective means of bringing about change in Indian society, especially one that addresses the predicament of its most deprived and oppressed people, whether they be the poor, women, Dalits, Adivasis or small and marginal farmers. We are guided by the essentially multi-disciplinary character of critical theory. We seek to understand the emergence of programs and policies in their specific historical context and provide a critique through an interrogation of the fundamental, irreducible concepts of the implicit knowledge systems underlying these programs and policies. The critique of existing institutions and policies, would have a deeply self-reflective and emancipatory intent, and we try to suggest more effective and empowering alternatives for the marginalized people.

The selected core themes draw upon the research expertise of faculty at SNU, who bring their longstanding commitments and experience to scholarship and public engagement in each of these areas together at C-PACT. The agenda represents an opportunity to build on and broaden these strengths by developing new projects and partnerships that dynamise and redefine the relationships between critical theory and public affairs, and in so doing, helps us reimagine the place of the university in and of the world.

This ambitious agenda begins concretely with an initial set of projects, each centrally related to one or more of the core themes. There are also broad, cross-cutting areas of work that picks up on synergies across thematic areas. Our first set of projects, under each theme is listed in the table below.

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