Research / Writing

My current research is focused on the political economy of natural resources and extractive industrialization in eastern India. Subsoil resources in India’s mineral belt–which stretches across Odisha, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh–have drawn large private investments in coal, bauxite, and iron ore mining as well as power plants, aluminum manufacturing, and steel production. My research tries to understand the new social and political forms and relations that are emerging as these capital-intensive mining and industrial firms are inserting themselves in rural landscapes through the processes of land acquisition, resettlement & rehabilitation, and peripheral development.

My first book, Electrifying India (Stanford, 2014), explores the politics of infrastructure in India. Taking electricity as a paradigmatic example of infrastructural state-building, I explore the changing contours of the sector from the decades following independence through the first decades of neoliberal India. I show that differences in rural political organizing produced variation in how electricity was priced and provided, particularly to rural areas, by comparing the politics of electrification in Maharashtra, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh. The book, which was published by Stanford University Press in 2014, received the Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences from the American Institute of Indian Studies.

A separate essay on a related topic, “Structures of Power,” published in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (2014), examines the emergence of electric systems in colonial India by looking at the factors that structured differential outcomes in Bombay Province, princely Mysore, and Madras Province. I have published shorter essays and opinion pieces on Indian political economy and India’s electricity sector, including an op-ed in Foreign Affairs just after the massive blackout in July 2012.

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