Faculty member Steven Wilkinson named next director of the MacMillan Center

Steven I. Wilkinson
Steven I. Wilkinson

Steven I. Wilkinson, the Nilekani Professor of India and South Asian Studies, has been appointed the next Henry R. Luce Director of the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale, Provost Ben Polak has announced. He will begin in his new post on July 1.

Wilkinson, who is also a professor of political science and international affairs, has focused his research on the causes of ethnic violence, corruption in politics, and civil-military politics in South Asia. He is the author of “Votes and Violence: Electoral Competition and Ethnic Riots in India” and “Army and Nation: India’s Military and Democracy since Independence.” He is the editor of “Religious Politics and Communal Violence in India” and co-editor of “Patrons or Policies: Patterns of Democratic Accountability and Political Competition.” His current research project, co-authored with Saumitra Jha of Stanford University, looks at the effects of war on individual political behavior and conflict, through cases as diverse as the French Revolution and the partition of India.

A native of Scotland, Wilkinson received his first degree (in history) from the University of Edinburgh. He earned his M.A. in history at Duke University, where he also began his teaching career. He then taught at the University of Chicago, where he chaired the university’s interdisciplinary Committee on Southern Asian Studies, before coming to Yale in 2009.

Over the past decade Professor Wilkinson has contributed his insights to numerous strategic initiatives for the university, serving on advisory groups ranging from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate Implementation Committee to the Provost’s Advisory Committee on International Affairs to the recent Advisory Committee on the Future of the Jackson Institute,” said Polak in his announcement. “He has been a member of the South Asian Studies Council at the MacMillan Center since he joined the Yale faculty, and he is in his second term chairing the Department of Political Science, a position he has held since 2014. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ dean’s office will now begin the process of identifying his successor as department chair.”

Steven Wilkinson has been a very effective chair of political science,” says Pericles Lewis, vice president for global strategy and deputy provost for international affairs, who chaired the faculty advisory committee for the MacMillan Center’s new director. “With a background in area studies and wide-ranging interests in history and comparative politics, he is the kind of broad-minded academic leader who will continue the central role of the MacMillan Center as a university-wide resource for international and area studies.”

Ana de la O Torres, an associate professor of political science and an affiliate of the MacMillan Center, called Wilkinson “an outstanding interdisciplinary scholar” whose work “helps us understand important social problems, including the political roots of communal violence, civil-military relations, and the relation between war and political change in South Asia.” She added: “Along with his intellectual heft, Professor Wilkinson brings an outstanding ability to lead in an effective and kind way. In the political science department, we have benefitted enormously from his broad vision, his tireless dedication to academic excellence, and his ability to work with the various groups in the department and across the university. I think that he will be an excellent leader of the vibrant and diverse intellectual community at MacMillan, and I look forward to continue working alongside him at the center.”

Wilkinson will succeed Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science and professor in the Institute for Social and Policy Studies and of management, who has served as director of the MacMillan Center for 15 years.

Ian encouraged me and many other faculty to come to Yale by emphasizing what its resources and programs could do to support interdisciplinary research, for faculty and our students,” says Wilkinson. “MacMillan, through its many councils, programs, and initiatives, has been a vital part of my time here at Yale. I have particularly appreciated Ian’s efforts to improve graduate student funding for dissertation fieldwork, which makes Yale a leader in supporting real engagement in the areas we study. He has done this all with vision, efficiency, and a great sense of humor.”

In his announcement, Polak thanked Lewis and the faculty advisory committee, and noted that he joined President Peter Salovey and many others across the campus in being grateful for Shapiro’s years of service as director. “The thriving MacMillan Center that we know today was shaped by his hands, and we are fortunate to know that it will continue to flourish under Professor Wilkinson’s leadership in the years to come,” the provost said.

Shapiro called Wilkinson “an outstanding, inspired choice,” adding, “I can’t think of anyone better qualified to take the MacMillan Center, and international and area studies at Yale, to the next level.”

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Marilyn Wilkes: marilyn.wilkes@yale.edu, 203-432-3413