Associate Professor in the Anthropology of South Asia
I am an Anthropologist of South Asia with wide-ranging research and teaching interests in the anthropology of politics, development, environment, law, human-animal studies, and research methods. I was educated at the Universities of Delhi (B.A. and M.A.) and Cambridge (MPhil and PhD). Before joining Oxford in October 2017 I held postdoctoral research fellowships awarded by the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy at the University of Cambridge.
My first monograph, Paper Tiger: Law Bureaucracy and the Developmental State in Himalayan India, was published in 2016 by Cambridge University Press as part of their ‘Law and Society’ series. Paper Tiger is a winner of the Sharon Stephens Prize awarded by American Ethnological Society for a first book. This book traces the translation of two widely commended laws into practice through an ethnography of quotidian bureaucratic life. Paper Tiger rejects standard explanations for developmental/state failure – rooted in inefficiency, incapacity, dysfunctionality, corruption, or violence – to present an alternate, ethnographically driven reconceptualisation. One of its original contributions has been to demonstrate the counter-intuitive effects of the push for ‘transparency’ in the functioning of the post-liberalisation Indian state.
My second book, Crooked Cats: Human-Big Cat Entanglements in the Anthropocene, is due to be published in 2020. Crooked Cats works through fieldwork conducted with victims of attacks by big cats, hunters, conservationists, wildlife biologists, animal rights activists, and photographers as well as archival work in India. It describes how humans share space with big cats that might - but also might not - be predatory.
My new research project studies the effects of the use of new technologies in the everyday working of government in India. This research builds upon my doctoral research on bureaucracy, welfare, and techniques of government in South Asia but substantially extends it by moving into a study of utopia, technology, and the intersection of technocracy and politics.