Ron Herring has worked mostly in and on South Asia, in fields of agrarian political economy and agrarian reform; ethnicity and conflict; political ecology and development; and social conflicts around science and genetic engineering. He has served as Chair of Cornell’s Department of Government and Acting Director of the Title VI National Resource Center for South Asia, and Director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, as the John S. Knight Chair of International Relations. He was a founding faculty member and subsequently Director/Convener of Development, Governance and Nature at Cornell. He is faculty advisor to ASHA-Cornell, a student group working for and with under-privileged children in India.
Before Cornell, Herring was Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University and held visiting positions at the Universities of Chicago, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. He has been Editor of Comparative Political Studies, and remains on its editorial board, as on the boards of Contemporary South Asia, Critical Asian Studies and the Journal of Development Studies. He has worked on various committees and boards of Fulbright, Social Science Research Council, American Council of Learned Societies, the American Institute of Indian Studies, Association for Asian Studies and MacArthur Foundation among others.
Professor Herring’s earliest academic interests were with land relations; Land to the Tiller: The Political Economy of Agrarian Reform in South Asia (Yale University Press/Oxford University Press) won the Edgar Graham Prize (London 1986). Much agrarian conflict revolves around class, and that interest remains keen. With Rina Agarwala, Herring edited a special issue of Critical Asian Studies: Resurrecting Class, Vol 38 (4) 2006. With additions, this work was published in book form as Whatever Happened to Class: Reflections from a Subcontinent [Routledge UK 2008; Lexington US 2008 (paper); Danish India 2008 (paper); Routledge India (paper)]. Concern with connections between economic development and ethnicity led to -- e.g. Carrots, Sticks and Ethnic Conflict: Rethinking Development Assistance (University of Michigan Press, edited with Milton Esman). Long involvement with property, development and agrarian politics led naturally to study the volatile politics of genetically engineered organisms. From an international conference at Cornell, Herring edited a special issue of Journal of Development Studies Vol 43 (1), 2007 on connections between transgenic crops and poverty. This work was subsequently published with Routledge (Oxon/London) as Transgenics and the Poor: Biotechnology in Development Studies [2007; paper 2008]. For this he was awarded the Dudley Seers Memorial Prize in 2008. In 2009, Ronald Herring was chosen to deliver the V.T. Krishnamachari Memorial Lecture at the Institute for Economic Growth at Delhi University: Global Rifts over Biotechnology.
Involvement with the politics of biotechnology led to larger concerns about the politics of science and the political power of ideas rooted in different kinds of authority. In this vein, Ron jointly led, with Ken Roberts, the 2006-2009 theme project at Cornell’s Institute for the Social Sciences: Contentious Knowledge: Science, Social Science and Social Movements. An edited volume on the conclusions of that project is in process. Many of these issues of transnational advocacy networks, alternative evaluations of science and its findings and the political economy of interests in ideational conflicts carry over into a new Handbook on Food, Politics and Society from Oxford University Press which Professor Herring is currently editing.
- Courses Taught
- Govt 131 Introduction to Comparative Politics
- Govt 429 Politics of Science
- Govt 430 Biotechnology and Development
- Govt 731 Political Ecology of Development
- Govt 351/735 Politics of South Asia
- Recent Publications
- Framing the GMO
- Contesting the “Great Transformation”: Local Struggles with the Market in South India
- Restoring Agency to Class: Puzzles from the Subcontinent
- Naturalising Transgenics: Official Seeds, Loose Seeds and Risk in the Decision Matrix of Gujarati Cotton Farmers
- Stealth Seeds: Bioproperty, Biosafety, Biopolitics
- The Genomics Revolution and Development Studies: Science, Poverty and Politics
- Opposition to transgenic technologies: ideology, interests and collective action frames
- Why Did “Operation Cremate Monsanto” Fail? Science and Class in India’s Great Terminator-Technology Hoax
- Whose numbers count? Probing discrepant evidence on transgenic cotton in the Warangal district of India