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Matthew Baxter

Matthew Baxter

Contact Information:


346 Eggers Hall

Matthew Baxter

Regional Programs Manager, Asia, Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs

Assistant Professor by Courtesy Appointment, Political Science Department

Highest degree earned

Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2013


Matthew Baxter received a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley’s political science department in 2013.

Prior to his graduate work, Matthew grew up in Syracuse, New York, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin College (1999) with courses focused on philosophy, law and society, and religion, and taught and studied as a Shansi Fellow (2000-2002) based at The American College in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

Following his graduate work, Baxter served as a postdoctoral fellow at Rutgers University’s Center for Cultural Analysis under the theme “Totality” (2014-2015) and at Harvard University’s Mahindra Humanities Center under the theme “Everyday Violence” (2015-2016), as well as spent time as a visiting scholar at Cornell University’s South Asia Program (2016-2018) while retaining an affiliation at the Mahindra Humanities Center.

He joined the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs at the Maxwell School of Citizenship in December 2022 after working on the political science faculty at Ashoka University (2018-2022), where he taught courses dealing with themes like democracy, religion, outcaste, revolution, intimacy, gathering, respect, hierarchy, reception, pragmatism and overcoming—largely through framings that crossed Continent & Subcontinent and North America & South India.

Baxter works on, with, in and through South Asia as a comparative political theorist, particularly committed to Tamil-speaking South India, Non-Brahmin politics, and the world-wide travel of critical imaginaries. An early expression of these interests can be found in “The Silence of the South and the Absence of Political Philosophy” (2005) while more recent articulations of his work include “Bhutams of Marx and the Movement of Self-Respecters” (2016), “The Jewish Gandhi Question, or, Ich and Swa: Martin Buber and the Five-Minute Mahatma” (2017), and “Two Concepts of Conversion at Meenakshipuram: Seeing through Ambedkar’s Buddhism and Being Seen in EVR’s Islam” (2019).  As the associate editor for South Asia at the international relations journal Asian Survey (2012-2014), he organized the special issue “Water, Politics, and Asia" (2014).

His dissertation—"For SubContinental Political Theory: On the Non-Brahmin Self-Respect Critique of Gandhian Self-Rule"—was an effort to place the politics and thought surrounding the South Indian radical E.V. Ramasami “Periyar” Nayakkar (1879-1973) in a world-wide frame. This research was made possible by a number of grants, including multiple Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships (2003-2006) involving the study of Tamil and some Hindi-Urdu, an American Institute for Indian Studies Fellowship (2006-2007) that provided an opportunity to translate materials associated with the Non-Brahmin "Cuya-Mariyātai Iyakkam" (Self-Respect Movement), and a Fulbright-Hays DDRA fellowship (2009) for a project then titled “Periyar, Ambedkar, and Gandhi: A Study in Comparative Political Theory.” Broadly, his approach to political theory—and its comparative framings—joins field work, archival research, and textual translation.  “The Politics of Embrace” (2020) provides a short reflection on such approaches.

As the regional programs manager-Asia at the Moynihan Institute, Matthew oversees the South Asia Center—which has existed in a federally funded Title VI National Resource Center consortium with Cornell University’s South Asia Program since 1985—as well as the East Asia Program and the Central Asia & the Caucasus Initiative.  He is also a co-organizer of the Central New York Humanities Corridor working group “Upstate South Asias: Citizenship, Comparison, & Equity.”  

Areas of Expertise

Comparative political theory, politics and thought in South Asia, Tamil