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National Institute of Advanced Studies


Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore, India.

Provincial Globalisation:
The Impact of Reverse Transnational Flows in India’s Regional Towns


For more information please visit the Provincial Globalisation website

A collaborative international research programme of the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), University of Amsterdam, and the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore, supported by a WOTRO Integrated Programme grant, Netherlands.

Programme directors

Ph.D. students

  • Ms Sanam Roohi (NIAS)
  • Ms Sanderien Verstappen (AISSR)
  • Ms Sulagna Mustafa (NIAS)



Provincial Globalisation is a five-year collaborative research programme with the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research,initiated in January 2010. The programme, consisting of five separate projects, is designed to explore processes of globalisation in provincial towns and their surrounding regions in India, by mapping the impact of transnational flows of resources sent by migrants to their home regions.


Most research on globalisation in developing countries has concentrated either on the macro-level of the nation-state or on the major metropolitan cities, drawing on quantitative data, or else on the micro-level through ethnographic studies. However, scattered evidence suggests that the impact of globalisation has been especially significant at the ‘middle’ level of the region – in smaller urban centres and their rural peripheries – particularly in those regions with significant histories of international migration. Migration usually leads to the formation of transnational networks and linkages through which a range of economic, social and cultural resources are transmitted by migrants to their home regions or towns. Such ‘reverse’ transnational flows have become significant conduits of globalisation and socio-economic transformation throughout the global South, with both positive and negative impacts on development.

Given the great diversity in regional economies, societies and histories, the programme will compare the pattern, operation and effects of these processes across three different regions – central Gujarat, coastal Andhra Pradesh and coastal Karnataka. Within each region the focus will be on key provincial towns and their rural hinterlands, and on a broad range of ‘reverse flows’ including economic resources such as household remittances, investments in land or businesses, and charitable donations; ‘social remittances’ such as flows of ideas and know-how; and cultural and religious transactions such a donations to temples. The research projects within the programme will examine the influence of such transfers and transactions on political and economic processes, social development, and cultural/religious institutions and identities in the selected regions, by mapping the key transnational networks, mechanisms and sites for resource transmission by migrants.


The major question framing the research programme concerns the effects of reverse flows of resources through transnational networks on social development in India. The specific objectives include:

  • To map the transnational social fields that have been formed due to international migration from the selected regions;
  • To trace the flows of people, resources, capital, labour, and ideas that traverse these networks;
  • To identify the key institutional mechanisms and the larger economic and political dynamics that direct and shape reverse flows;
  • To analyse the consequences of these flows for specific sectors or social processes.

To achieve these objectives, the programme will focus on three broad types of flows, which are closely inter-connected:

  • Economic transfers, such as financial or business investments, purchase of property, and household remittances;
  • Social investments, including philanthropy, support to NGOs, and NRI networks devoted to development initiatives;
  • Cultural and political interventions, such as support for religious organisations or political parties.

Programme structure

The programme consists of five independent but interlinked research projects located in three states of India – three doctoral projects in social anthropology and two post-doctoral projects in geography and economics, respectively – and includes both Dutch and Indian researchers. The Ph.D. projects will be intensive micro-level studies of the selected regions, while the two post-doctoral projects will provide macro- and meso-level mappings of transnational linkages and flows at the regional, state, and national levels.


Transnational social fields are shaped by institutional actors, power dynamics, and policies at different scales – below, above and at the level of the nation-state – hence the study of reverse flows must be multi-scalar as well as multi-disciplinary. Accordingly, the research programme will utilise several different research strategies and methods, both quantitative and qualitative. The main thrust of the programme will be on qualitative methods and fine-grained ethnographic research, in order to explore in depth the complexities of migrant experience and transnational relationships and to understand the mechanisms and modalities of resource flows. Complementing the three field-based Ph.D. projects, two overview projects from the perspectives of economics and geography will provide the macro-level context for the processes observed at the regional and micro level. This multi-and inter-disciplinary approach, encompassing the disciplines of sociology, social anthropology, economics, and geography, is essential to capture the diverse ways in which transnational flows are embedded in social networks or permeated by cultural values or political aspirations.

Significance and projected outcomes

The research programme is expected to produce significant academic as well as policy outputs. Most of the academic literature on transnationalism and on the South Asian diaspora does not capture adequately the effects of reverse flows into the provincial areas that supply migrants. The programme will thus contribute to the literatures on globalisation, transnationalism, and on migration and development by moving down from the global and national levels to the region and locality. The research results will also be relevant to national and international policy debates on migration, development, and the contributions of Overseas Indians to India’s development.

Advisory Committee

  • Prof. Dr. Ayse Caglar
    Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
    Göttingen, Germany
  • Prof. Rupa Chanda
    Professor of Economics & Social Sciences
    Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India
  • Mr. Krishna Kumar
    (Former Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Government of India)
    Bangalore, India
  • Prof. Amitabh Kundu
    Professor of Economics
    Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences
    Jawaharlal Nehru University
    New Delhi, India
  • Prof. Peggy Levitt
    Professor, Department of Sociology, Wellesley College
    Co-Director, Transnational Studies Initiative, Harvard University, USA
  • Prof. Willem van Schendel
    University of Amsterdam
    The Netherlands
  • Prof. Dr. Steven Vertovec
    Director, Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
    Göttingen, Germany

» Please also visit the UvA Programme page


Linked to the Provincial Globalisation programme, an International Seminar on Global Relationships in Indian Perspective was jointly organised by ICSSR (Indian Council for Social Science Research) and NWO (the Netherlands), as part of the India-Netherlands collaboration. Prof Mario Rutten and Carol Upadhya were the convenors of the seminar, which was held at the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, on June 22-23, 2010.

Working Papers

1. ProGlo Working Paper 1 Guha Measuring Remittances

2. ProGlo Working Paper 2 Dekkers Rutten Diaspora Philanthropy

3. ProGlo Working Paper 3 Guha Economics of Migration and Remittances

4. ProGlo Working Paper 4 Upadhya Transnational Flows and Regional Development in India

5. ProGlo Working Paper 5 Rutten Middling Migration: Contradictory Mobility Experiences of Indian Youth in London

6. ProGlo Working Paper 6 Guha Migrants’ Private Giving and Development Diasporic Influences on Development in Central Gujarat, India

For more information please visit the Provincial Globalisation website



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