Nikhil Menon is a doctoral candidate at the Department of History. Trained in the history of modern South Asia, his research looks at economic planning, development, and nation building in independent India. His dissertation, titled “Planned Democracy: Citizenship, Development, and the Practices of Planning in Independent India, 1947-1966" studies economic planning in India in the two decades following political independence.
From 1950, the Planning Commission of India negotiated a unique marriage between parliamentary democracy and centralized economic planning—precisely when the Cold War made them seem fundamentally incompatible. This project argues that India’s Five Year Plans were more than a means of regulating an economy; planning was, in fact, an expansive project to shape the nature of Indian democracy and society. It demonstrates that planning was simultaneously a technocratic exercise in directing the economy, a means of modern state building, and an attempt at a state-directed social transformation. Placing India within global debates on development, it maps the transnational flows of ideas, individuals, and institutions among India, the United States, Europe, and the Soviet Union.
His research has been supported by a grant from the History Project (Harvard University), and he was nominated to the Society of Woodrow Wilson Scholars at Princeton in 2015-16. He is currently a recipient of the Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2016. Before arriving at Princeton, Nikhil completed an M.Phil in Modern Indian History from Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi). He also holds an M.A and B.A (Honors) in History from the University of Delhi.
Peer Reviewed Journals
“‘Fancy Calculating Machine’: Computers and Planning in Postcolonial India,” Modern Asian Studies (forthcoming).
"Battling the Bottle: Experiments in Regulating Drink in Late Colonial Madras," The Indian Economic and Social History Review, January - March 2015, 52 (1): pp. 29-51.
"Out of Commission," The Indian Express, 15 July, 2014.