Resource centre on India's rural distress

Dr Alice Evans, lecturer at King’s College London and a faculty associate at Harvard’s Centre for International Development, interviewed by Rohan Venkataramakrishnan (

The author of the forthcoming ‘The Great Gender Divergence’ on how agriculture can explain why some parts of India are more gender-equal than others.

Dr Alice Evans is a lecturer at King’s College London and a faculty associate at Harvard’s Centre for International Development. Taking inspiration from research on the great divergence – the idea that Western Europe saw tremendous socioeconomic shifts in the 19th century that led to industrial growth and the rise of global powers – Evans work attempts to answer the question of why some regions of the world have become more gender-equal than others.

Evans, who will often engage with others on Twitter while developing her ideas, has been focusing on South Asia of late, looking into questions like why North and South India are so different on gender, and what thwarts feminist activism in the region.

I spoke to Evans about Indian Twitter, what it takes to write a book about the whole world, and why her big feminist demand for India is simply more labour-intensive growth.

* How did you come to start writing on gender and South Asia?

I’m writing a book called The Great Gender Divergence. And this is studying three key things:

- All societies have become more gender equal.
- Some societies are more gender equal than others, like Latin America, Southeast Asia – much more so than South Asia or the Middle East.
- And three, those regional differences have persisted for a long time.

I’m trying to understand why all societies are making progress and why there are such big regional differences. It’s a global history of gender, and as a part of that, I have a chapter on South Asia.

I’ve been studying India, Pakistan, Bangladesh over the past 200 years, trying to understand what’s driving progress, what’s impeding progress, why it’s not made as much progress as places in East Asia or Latin America. Looking at it comparatively.

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