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Rita Manchanda

margit van wessel

Rita Manchanda is an independent researcher, writer and human rights advocate. In the Civil Society Dynamics, she worked independently, grappling with the question: When civic space gets restricted: how can CSO’s protect and reclaim closing space?  For this project she conducted fieldwork in the Indian State of Jharkhand and in Delhi. Her research resulted in a theoretical framing of civic space as dynamic and contested between state and civil society, involving an interplay of push and shove strategies with room for maneuver on both sides. Even as the state increasingly exercises control and circumscribes the terms of engagement in civic space, CSOs adapt and innovate a set of flexible and even cunning manoeuvers to navigate the contradictions of collaborating within the “bounded” spaces opened by the state, securing or claiming own organic spaces to contest hegemonic power relations and influencing policy. 

Rita Manchanda is specialized in conflicts and peace building in South Asia with particular attention to critically exploring the role of civil society, especially women’s collective activism, in negotiating conflict and building peace in South Asia. The ‘auditing’ of civil society advocacy effectiveness has been an area of research interest and this is reflected in her work as Research Director of the South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR), as can be seen in the conceptualization and coordination of multi-country field based peace audits that resulted in the V Volume of the SAGE Series in Human Rights Audits of Peace Processes (2015).  At SAFHR, Rita Manchanda has directed and coordinated a diverse portfolio of programmes including ‘Human Rights Audits of Peace Processes,’ Women in Conflict and Peace’, ‘Media in Conflict’, Minority Rights in South Asia, ‘A Rights based Approaches to Poverty Reduction’. Publications ensuing from these programmes contributed to redefining the regional discourse on these themes 

Rita Manchanda’s recognized area of expertise is at the intersection of gender studies with peace and security issues in the context of South Asia as articulated in such publications as Women and the Politics of Peace: Narratives of Militarisation, Power and Justice (Sage, 2017), a follow up to the pioneering study Women War and Peace in South Asia: Beyond Victimhood to Agency (Sage, 2001). Published works include studies on minority rights and forcible displacement. She is a guest lecturer on the themes of Global Studies, Gender and Conflict and Refugee studies at several universities; a consultant with transnational governmental bodies and CSOs. She is also on the Board of journals such as International Journal of Transitional Justice.


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We are the Civil Society Research Collective (CSRC), a group of academic researchers from the USA, India and the Netherlands.