Swarna Rajagopalan

Political analyst, writer and consultant.
Founder and Managing Trustee, The Prajnya Trust , Chennai
Founder, Chaitanya–The Policy Consultancy , Chennai
Founding member, Women's Regional Network
Visiting Professor of Political Science, Krea University

Swarna Rajagopalan works as a writer, political analyst and consultant in Chennai, India. She is the founding trustee of The Prajnya Trust , which is a non-profit centre for policy research, advocacy and networking in the areas of peace, justice and security. Her consultancy, Chaitanya, has undertaken educational programming, research conferences, commissioned research, research direction and reviews as well as project evaluations and reviews. She is active as a scholar on traditional and non-traditional security topics. She also writes for both print and electronic media.

Dr. Rajagopalan received her Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1998), an M.A. in International Relations from Syracuse University (1985) and a B.A. in Political Science from Elphinstone College , University of Bombay (1984). Her Ph.D. dissertation was published as State and Nation in South Asia (Lynne Rienner 2001/ Viva 2006 ). She is the author of several articles and chapters, and is the editor or co-editor of books on security, gender and politics (listed below).

Swarna Rajagopalan has been present at the start of several path-breaking initiatives in South Asia. She volunteered at the Bombay (Mumbai) rallies protesting a rape judgment in 1980 that are considered a landmark in the history of the Indian women’s movement. In May 1993, she attended the first Security, Technology and Arms Control Workshop in Bhurban, Pakistan. Also in May 1993, Swarna was a rapporteur at the inaugural session of the Regional Centre for Security Studies (RCSS). She assisted at and participated in the first Winter Workshop on Ethnicity, Migration and Environment held by the RCSS in 1997. She remains a part of these and other regional networks. Swarna has also served as an election observer in the 2000 Parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka. She is a founding member of the Women's Regional Network and served on the Board from 2017-19.

Founder and Managing Trustee of The Prajnya Trust, 2006 till date, Dr. Rajagopalan's honorary position involves providing vision; leadership and mentoring; research and writing; communications and public relations, including fundraising; conceptualization and execution of projects and programmes; and administration. Prajnya works in three areas: women’s history and women in politics; gender violence awareness and peace education. She engages with all three, in addition to leading the organization.

Swarna Rajagopalan’s consultancy portfolio has been diverse, both in terms of clients and the nature of the projects she has undertaken. She has undertaken assignments for Indian nonprofits like Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace and Swayam Shikshan Prayog; the MacArthur Foundation; agencies like the World Bank, UN Women, USAID and GIZ, and Michigan State University. Chaitanya, her consultancy firm, used to maintain a weekly digest of security news from the southern part of the South Asian subcontinent, first on its website and then at subcontinentsouth.blogspot.com. The website also hosted several online learning guides on security and governance related topics. She was the creator of most of these resources.

Dr. Rajagopalan blogs at The Standpoint on politics, international relations and security. Her older blog holds a mix of political, professional and personal writing. In 2009-11, she was an expert blogger for the MacArthur Foundation's Asia Security Initiative blog ( posts archived here). She writes for the Prajnya Trust's many blogs as well. She has written articles related to security for National Review, The New Indian Express and InfochangeIndia.org, and on gender issues for The Mint. She has written regularly for InfochangeIndia.org, the DNA website and The Citizen.

Projects and publications


Books and monographs

  • Openings for Peace: UNSCR 1325, Women and Security in India, co-edited with Asha Hans, SAGE (2016).
  • Women and Disasters in South Asia: Survival, Security and Development, co-edited with Linda Racioppi, Routledge India (2016).
  • Peace Accords in Northeast India: Journey over Milestone ,” East-West Center Washington Policy Studies Series 46 (2008).
  • Security and South Asia: Ideas, Institutions and Initiatives, edited, Routledge India (2006).
  • Women, Security, South Asia: A Clearing in the Thicket, co-edited with Farah Faizal, Sage, (2005).
  • State and Nation in South Asia, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, 2001. (Indian reprint, Viva Books, January 2006).
  • Re-Distribution of Authority: A Cross-Regional Perspective, co- edited with Jeanie J. Bukowski, Praeger, Westport, 2000.

Articles, papers and book chapters

Accessible Reports

Media publications: A selection

Briefings (for Chaitanya)
Online learning resources
  • For Chaitanya–the Policy Consultancy , resource guides were created between 2004 and 2006 on a range of issues from democratization in the Maldives, to gender equity, to children and security. These were placed at http://www.chaitanyaconsult.in/chaitanya/policy.html but the site has since been reconstructed and some links are lost.
  • “The Iraq Question,” http://www.staff.uiuc.edu/~swarnar/iraqpage.htm. February-March 2003. Now available at http://www.swarnar.com/iraqpage.htm.
  • “On events in Gujarat.” http://pantheon.yale.edu/~sr323/gujevents.htm. Resource page created to provide contextual information and resource links after communal riots broke out in India, March 2002. Now available at http://www.swarnar.com/gujevents.htm.
  • Alliance for Lifelong Learning, Learning Guide on India-Pakistan conflict (http://www.allianceforlifelonglearning.org/er/IndiaPakistanK.html), January-February 2002. Now available at http://www.alllearn.org/er/lg/IndiaPakistanK.shtml.
  • “Contextualizing the events of September 11 and thereafter.” (http://pantheon.yale.edu/~sr323/sept11.htm). This is an online resource page maintained October-November 2001, containing links to background information and analyses of the events of September 11, 2001 and thereafter. Now available at http://www.swarnar.com/sept11.htm.
Blogs, etc.
Book Reviews
  • Nira Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History of Contested Identities, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, 2006 in The Book Review.
  • Radhika Coomaraswamy and Nimanthi Perera-Rajasingham, editors, Constellations of Violence: Feminist Interventions in South Asia, Women Unlimited, New Delhi, 2008, in The Book Review.
  • N. Manoharan, Democratic Dilemma: Ethnic Violence and Human Rights in Sri Lanka, Samskriti, New Delhi, 2008, in The Book Review.
  • Review of Roshmi Goswami, MG Sreekala and Meghna Goswami, Women in armed Conflict Situations: A Study by North East Network, North East Network, Guwahati, May 2005 and Gunjan Veda, Tailoring peace… The Citizens’ Roundtable on Manipur and Beyond, North East Network, Guwahati, April 2005, in Indian Journal of Gender Studies.
  • Review of Roland Paris, At War’s End: Building Peace after Civil Conflict, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004, in International Studies (Jawaharlal Nehru University), XLIII:1, January-March 2006.
  • Review of Nigel Biggar, editor, Burying The Past: Making Peace And Doing Justice After Civil Conflict, Georgetown University Press, Washington DC, 2003, in Millennium Journal of International Studies (forthcoming).
  • Review of Geeti Sen, editor, India: A National Culture? Sage Publications, New Delhi and India International Centre, 2003, in Journal of Asian Studies (forthcoming).
  • Review of Michael M. Cernea and Christopher McDowell, editors, Risks and Reconstruction: Experiences of Resettlers and Refugees, World Bank, Washington, DC, 2000, in Contemporary South Asia, 11:2, 2002.
  • Review of Stephen Peter Rosen, Societies & Military Power: India and Its Armies, Cornell, 1996, in International Journal of Hindu Studies, I:3, December 1997.
  • Review of Abdul Aziz and David Arnold, ed., Decentralised Governance in Asian Countries, Sage, New Delhi, 1996, in Contemporary South Asia, VI:3, November 1997.
  • Review of Stig Toft Madsen, State, Society and Human Rights in South Asia, Manohar, 1996, in Contemporary South Asia, VII:3, November 1998.