Swarna Rajagopalan

Political analyst, writer and consultant.
Founder and Managing Trustee, The Prajnya Trust , Chennai
Founder, Chaitanya–The Policy Consultancy , Chennai
Founding member, Women's Regional Network
Visiting Professor of Political Science, Krea University
Chair, Research Committee 07 on Women and Politics in the Global South, International Political Science Association, 2023-.

Swarna Rajagopalan works as a writer, political analyst and consultant in Chennai, India. She is the founding trustee of The Prajnya Trust , which is a non-profit centre for policy research, advocacy and networking in the areas of peace, justice and security. Her consultancy, Chaitanya, has undertaken educational programming, research conferences, commissioned research, research direction and reviews as well as project evaluations and reviews. She is also a founding member of the Women's Regional Network and served on the Board from 2017-19. She is active as a scholar on traditional and non-traditional security topics and also writes for both print and electronic media.

Dr. Rajagopalan is presently a Visiting Professor of Politics at Krea University. She has previously taught at James Madison College, Michigan State University; Yale University; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; National Management School and Sophia College, Mumbai. She is currently a Visiting Professor of Politics at Krea University and also teaching a course on international relations at Sai University.

Dr. Rajagopalan received her Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1998); an M.A. in International Relations from Syracuse University (1985) and a B.A. in Political Science from Elphinstone College , University of Bombay (1984). Her Ph.D. dissertation was published as State and Nation in South Asia (Lynne Rienner 2001/ Viva 2006 ). She is the author of several articles and chapters, and is the editor or co-editor of books on security, gender and politics (listed below).

Swarna Rajagopalan has been present at the start of several path-breaking initiatives in South Asia. She volunteered at the Bombay (Mumbai) rallies protesting a rape judgment in 1980 that are considered a landmark in the history of the Indian women’s movement. In May 1993, she attended the first Security, Technology and Arms Control Workshop in Bhurban, Pakistan. Also in May 1993, Swarna was a rapporteur at the inaugural session of the Regional Centre for Security Studies (RCSS). She assisted at and participated in the first Winter Workshop on Ethnicity, Migration and Environment held by the RCSS in 1997. She remains a part of these and other regional networks. Swarna has also served as an election observer in the 2000 Parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka.

Founder and Managing Trustee of The Prajnya Trust, 2006 till date, Dr. Rajagopalan's honorary position involves providing vision; leadership and mentoring; research and writing; communications and public relations, including fundraising; conceptualization and execution of projects and programmes; and administration. Prajnya works in three areas: women’s history and women in politics; gender violence awareness and peace education. She engages with all three, in addition to leading the organization.

Swarna Rajagopalan’s consultancy portfolio has been diverse, both in terms of clients and the nature of the projects she has undertaken. She has undertaken assignments for Indian nonprofits like Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace and Swayam Shikshan Prayog; the MacArthur Foundation; agencies like the World Bank, UN Women, USAID and GIZ, and Michigan State University. Chaitanya, her consultancy firm, used to maintain a weekly digest of security news from the southern part of the South Asian subcontinent, first on its website and then at subcontinentsouth.blogspot.com. The website also hosted several online learning guides on security and governance related topics. She was the creator of most of these resources.

Since 2020, Dr. Rajagopalan has been a co-investigator on the project, Surviving Violence: Everyday Resilience and Gender Justice in Rural-Urban India, funded by the British Academy under their Heritage, Dignity and Violence programme.

Dr. Rajagopalan blogs at The Standpoint on politics, international relations and security. Her older blog holds a mix of political, professional and personal writing. In 2009-11, she was an expert blogger for the MacArthur Foundation's Asia Security Initiative blog ( posts archived here). She writes for the Prajnya Trust's many blogs as well. She has written articles related to security for National Review, The New Indian Express and InfochangeIndia.org, and on gender issues for The Mint. She has written regularly for InfochangeIndia.org, the DNA website and The Citizen.

Projects and publications


Books and monographs

  • Openings for Peace: UNSCR 1325, Women and Security in India, co-edited with Asha Hans, SAGE (2016).
  • Women and Disasters in South Asia: Survival, Security and Development, co-edited with Linda Racioppi, Routledge India (2016).
  • Peace Accords in Northeast India: Journey over Milestone ,” East-West Center Washington Policy Studies Series 46 (2008).
  • Security and South Asia: Ideas, Institutions and Initiatives, edited, Routledge India (2006).
  • Women, Security, South Asia: A Clearing in the Thicket, co-edited with Farah Faizal, Sage, (2005).
  • State and Nation in South Asia, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, 2001. (Indian reprint, Viva Books, January 2006).
  • Re-Distribution of Authority: A Cross-Regional Perspective, co- edited with Jeanie J. Bukowski, Praeger, Westport, 2000.

Articles, papers and book chapters

  • "Human Security in South Asia," in the Routledge Handbook of the International Relations of South Asia, edited by Sumit Ganguly and Frank O’Donnell, forthcoming 2022.
  • "Fenceless fields," in Transdisciplinary Ethnography in India: Women in the Field, edited by Rosa Maria Perez and Lina M. Fruzzetti, Routledge, 2022.
  • "Feminism, Security, and International Relations: Reflections," in Women and Power: Gender within International Relations and Diplomacy," edited by Nutan kapoor Mahawar and Ankita Dutta, Indian Council for World Affairs, Macmillan, 2022
  • "Unintended Consequences: Northeastern Peace Accords and Manipur's Women," Peace Prints, Volume 7, No.1, Summer 2021.
  • "Safe, Equal Workplaces: A Journey towards Rights and Justice," in Her Right to Equality, edited by Nisha Agrawal, Rethinking India series, Vintage Penguin Random House, 2021.
  • "A Gender-Sensitive Indian Foreign Policy", Indian Council for World Affairs, pages 14-18, March 11, 2021
  • "The Letters: An Exchange on Patriarchy, Militarization and Feminist Peace Activism," with Asha Hans, in Exploring Betty A. Reardon’s Perspective on Peace Education: Looking Back, Looking Forward, edited by Dale T. Snauwaert (Springer, 2019).
  • "RCSS at 25," Himal Southasian, May 31, 2018.
  • "Human Security in India," in The Routledge Handbook of Asian Security Studies, edited by Sumit Ganguly, Andrew Scobell and Joseph Chinyong Liow, Routledge (2017).
  • "Scrapbooks: A Set of Seven War Stories," in Women against War System, edited by Nadja Furlan Stante, Anja Zalta, Maja Lamberger Khatib (Lit Verlag, 2017).
  • "Peace, with women: Women's political participation in post-conflict contexts," in Women and Politics of Peace: South Asia Narratives on Militarization, Power, and Justice, edited by Rita Manchanda (SAGE, 2017).
  • "Grand Strategic Thought in the Ramayana and Mahabharata," in India's Grand Strategy: History, Theory, Cases , edited by Kanti Bajpai, Saira Basit and V. Krishnappa, Routledge, 2014, pages 31-62.
  • "Baby Girl Blues: Patriarchy, Gender, Democracy and Violence ," for Democracy and Violence in Contemporary India, a joint Calcutta Research Group and Indian Institute of Advanced Study project, 2011-12 (unpublished)
  • "Whose Security, Whose Development?: Lessons from Campaigns against Female Infanticide in Tamil Nadu ," in Political Transition and Development Imperatives in India , edited by Ranabir Samaddar and Suhit K. Sen, Routledge, 2012, pages187-229.
  • "Reflections on Feminism and Foreign Policy ," IIC Quarterly, Summer 2012.
  • "Militarization and post-war Sri Lankan democracy," South Asian Journal, July-September 2011.
  • "Peace Refractions ," Peacebuilding issue, Agenda, October 2011.
  • Building a Feminist Peace ,” Seminar 619, March 2011.
  • Gender Violence, Conflict, Internal Displacement And Peacebuilding ,” Peace Prints, Volume 3, Number 1 (2010).
  • Reconciliation in the Indian Epics ,” Peace Prints, Volume I, Number 1 (2008).
  • Silver Linings: Natural Disasters, International Relations and Political Change in South Asia, 2004-5,” Defense & Security Analysis, Vol 22 ed 4, December 2006.
  • “Securing Rama’s World,” in Swarna Rajagopalan, ed., Security and South Asia: Ideas, Institutions and Initiatives , edited, Routledge India, 2006.
  • The Dravida Nadu Experience: Security, State-building and Secession from a Peninsular Perspective ,” in Gopalji Malviya, ed., Security Dimensions of Peninsular India , Centre for Security Analysis, Chennai, 2005.
  • “Women and Security: In search of a new paradigm,” in Farah Faizal and Swarna Rajagopalan, eds., Women, Security, South Asia: A Clearing in the Thicket, Sage, September 2005.
  • “Small States in South Asian International Affairs” for Devin Hagerty, ed., South Asia in World Politics, Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.
  • “Research, policy, reality: Women, security, South Asia,” in Sustainable Development: Bridging the Research/ Policy Gaps in Southern Contexts . Volume 2: Social Policy. Sustainable Development Policy Institute. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pages 80-97, 2005.
  • Of Militants, Martyrs, Nations and States: Kashmir and Sri Lanka,” special issue on “Rethinking Terrorism ,” Swords and Ploughshares , bulletin of the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Winter 2003.
  • Secularism in India: Accepted Principle, Contentious Interpretation ,” in William Safran, ed., The Secular and the Sacred: Nation, Religion and Politics , Frank Cass, London, 2003.
  • Re-building Afghanistan: Lessons from South Asia ” (Comment), Seminar, February 2002.
  • “Demarcating Units, Re-distributing Authority: Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka,” in Jeanie J. Bukowski and Swarna Rajagopalan, eds., Re-distribution of Authority: A Cross-Regional Perspective, Praeger, Westport, CT, May 2000.
  • Internal Unit Demarcation and National Identity ,” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics , Volume 5:3-4, Fall and Winter 1999, pp.191-211. (Special journal issue reprinted as William Safran and Ramon Maiz, eds., Identity and Territorial Autonomy in Plural Societies, Frank Cass, London and Portland, Oregon, 2000.
  • National Integration in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan: Constitutional and Elite Visions ,” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, Volume 3:4, Winter 1997, pp.1-38.
  • “A Traveler’s Collection of Tales,” Nethra, International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, Volume 1:4, July-September 1997, pp. 12-34.
  • “Identifying An Agenda: How And Why Ethnic Groups And Nations Choose Their Goal,” Occasional Paper, Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, November 1994.
  • “Management Of Diversity Through Integrative Strategies,” Swords and Ploughshares, bulletin of the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Fall 1994.

Accessible Reports

Media publications: A selection

Briefings (for Chaitanya)
Online learning resources
  • For Chaitanya–the Policy Consultancy , resource guides were created between 2004 and 2006 on a range of issues from democratization in the Maldives, to gender equity, to children and security. These were placed at http://www.chaitanyaconsult.in/chaitanya/policy.html but the site has since been reconstructed and some links are lost.
  • “The Iraq Question,” http://www.staff.uiuc.edu/~swarnar/iraqpage.htm. February-March 2003. Now available at http://www.swarnar.com/iraqpage.htm.
  • “On events in Gujarat.” http://pantheon.yale.edu/~sr323/gujevents.htm. Resource page created to provide contextual information and resource links after communal riots broke out in India, March 2002. Now available at http://www.swarnar.com/gujevents.htm.
  • Alliance for Lifelong Learning, Learning Guide on India-Pakistan conflict (http://www.allianceforlifelonglearning.org/er/IndiaPakistanK.html), January-February 2002. Now available at http://www.alllearn.org/er/lg/IndiaPakistanK.shtml.
  • “Contextualizing the events of September 11 and thereafter.” (http://pantheon.yale.edu/~sr323/sept11.htm). This is an online resource page maintained October-November 2001, containing links to background information and analyses of the events of September 11, 2001 and thereafter. Now available at http://www.swarnar.com/sept11.htm.
Blogs, etc.
Book Reviews
  • Nira Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History of Contested Identities, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, 2006 in The Book Review.
  • Radhika Coomaraswamy and Nimanthi Perera-Rajasingham, editors, Constellations of Violence: Feminist Interventions in South Asia, Women Unlimited, New Delhi, 2008, in The Book Review.
  • N. Manoharan, Democratic Dilemma: Ethnic Violence and Human Rights in Sri Lanka, Samskriti, New Delhi, 2008, in The Book Review.
  • Review of Roshmi Goswami, MG Sreekala and Meghna Goswami, Women in armed Conflict Situations: A Study by North East Network, North East Network, Guwahati, May 2005 and Gunjan Veda, Tailoring peace… The Citizens’ Roundtable on Manipur and Beyond, North East Network, Guwahati, April 2005, in Indian Journal of Gender Studies.
  • Review of Roland Paris, At War’s End: Building Peace after Civil Conflict, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004, in International Studies (Jawaharlal Nehru University), XLIII:1, January-March 2006.
  • Review of Nigel Biggar, editor, Burying The Past: Making Peace And Doing Justice After Civil Conflict, Georgetown University Press, Washington DC, 2003, in Millennium Journal of International Studies (forthcoming).
  • Review of Geeti Sen, editor, India: A National Culture? Sage Publications, New Delhi and India International Centre, 2003, in Journal of Asian Studies (forthcoming).
  • Review of Michael M. Cernea and Christopher McDowell, editors, Risks and Reconstruction: Experiences of Resettlers and Refugees, World Bank, Washington, DC, 2000, in Contemporary South Asia, 11:2, 2002.
  • Review of Stephen Peter Rosen, Societies & Military Power: India and Its Armies, Cornell, 1996, in International Journal of Hindu Studies, I:3, December 1997.
  • Review of Abdul Aziz and David Arnold, ed., Decentralised Governance in Asian Countries, Sage, New Delhi, 1996, in Contemporary South Asia, VI:3, November 1997.
  • Review of Stig Toft Madsen, State, Society and Human Rights in South Asia, Manohar, 1996, in Contemporary South Asia, VII:3, November 1998.