Paul Richard Brass, scholar of Indian politics and society passed away at 85 on 31 May “after a lengthy illness”.
Paul was an American political scientist whose seminal research on Indian politics proved a benchmark for Indian sociology and politics for generations of scholars.
He served as the professor emeritus of political science and international relations at University of Washington until his retirement from the post in 1990.
Focusing on fieldwork oriented research, he visited India many times. Meerut and Aligarh of Uttar Pradesh were his favourite cities to research on. Building on the interviews of local leaders and political stalwarts, his research on factional politics in India redefined how politics is understood and analyzed in mainstream discourse.
During his fieldwork in Aligarh, 1983, he coined the term “institutionalised riot system”, a system “in which known persons and groups occupy specific roles in the rehearsal for and the production of communal riots”. “The production of communal riots is very often a political one, frequently associated with intense interparty competition…” he added.
Among Paul’s oeuvre, the three volume biography of former Indian Prime Minister Charan SIngh which spans the history of India before and after Independence, stands high as his magnum opus. Paul had an amicable relationship with the kisan leader whom he met first at 1962 and shared correspondences with him for 2 decades until the death of the stalwart leader in 1987.His other major works include Language, Religion and Politics in North India (1974), Factional Politics in an Indian State : The Congress Party Organization in Uttar Pradesh (1964),The Politics of India Since Independence (1994), Theft of an Idol : Text and Context in the Representation of Collective Violence(1997), The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India(2004).
Several Indian writers, journalists and academics have paid tribute to Brass, professor emeritus of political science at Seattle’s University of Washington, whose prolific career spanned six decade.