The newest faculty member at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Dipali Mukhopadhyay, doesn’t just study from afar the politics and governance of war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Syria; she travels to sites of conflict and intervention frequently to conduct field work on the ground. And she’s eager to share her experiences and perspectives with Humphrey School students.
Mukhopadhyay, currently with the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York, will join the Humphrey School in September as an associate professor in the global policy area.
Her research focuses on the relationships between political violence, state building, and governance during and after war.
“I’m interested in countries that we tend to think about as having weak states or failing states or fragile states, and looking for the kinds of politics that keep those states together,” she says. “Especially countries like Afghanistan and Syria that have captured the international community's attention and become the objects of foreign intervention.”
Mukhopadhyay began her field work in Afghanistan in 2004, and has returned there 10 times, most recently in March. She also has done research along the Turkish-Syria border between 2013 and 2016.
She acknowledges that visiting these conflict zones is challenging, but in her view, it’s also necessary.
“It remains very important to stay connected to the truths of the places that we’re actually studying,” she says. “In my case, that has meant building relationships with Afghans and Syrians, and really giving them the opportunity to articulate their own politics in their own words and on their own terms. There’s no way to do that except to travel to those places.”
Mukhopadhyay has written two books based on her research in those countries: Good Rebel Governance: Revolutionary Politics and Western Intervention in Syria (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming) with Kimberly Howe; and Warlords, Strongman Governors and State Building in Afghanistan (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
“I’m so pleased to welcome Dr. Mukhopadhyay to our faculty, and to Minnesota, this fall,” Humphrey School Dean Laura Bloomberg says. “I am impressed with her passion for engaging students in her scholarly work and research, her deep desire to advance peace and security in the world, and her excitement about becoming an integral part of the Humphrey School's growing global engagement efforts.”
Mukhopadhyay says she’s looking forward to engaging Humphrey School students in her work in a variety of ways, through classroom discussions and research activities.
“I believe students of public policy are one of this country's greatest assets: they represent future civil servants, diplomats, activists, soldiers, and citizens who have invested in exploring hard questions and adopting perspectives other than their own,” Mukhopadhyay says. “I can think of no better pursuit than the work of studying, teaching, and practicing policy-making in service of the public good. The opportunity to engage in that pursuit at a world-class university that is also a public institution feels especially poignant at this moment. I can't wait to get started!”
Mukhopadhyay was interviewed for this recent New York Times article discussing how her work may shed light on resilience in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
In addition to her books, Mukhopadhyay has authored numerous articles in Conflict, Security and Development, International Negotiation, and Perspectives on Politics, as well as a series of book chapters in edited volumes. Her policy-oriented writing has been published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Foreign Policy, Lawfare, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and The Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog.
Mukhopadhyay is vice president of the American Institute of Afghan Studies and was a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Before joining Columbia University in 2012, Mukhopadhyay was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University. In 2016, she was a visiting scholar at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation.
She earned her doctorate from The Fletcher School at Tufts University and her BA in political science from Yale University.