Research

My first area of research is the politics of infrastructure in India, specifically energy and electricity. In a new project that aims to map how technological and political forces are shaping electricity policy and governance outcomes at the state-level in India, I am working with Ranjit Bharvirkar (Regulatory Assistance Project) and Navroz Dubash (Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi) and a team of social science graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

My first book, Electrifying India (Stanford, 2014), takes electricity as a paradigmatic example of infrastructural state-building to explore the changing contours of the sector from the decades following independence to the early 2000s. 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, specifically Bombay Province, princely Mysore, and Madras Province. I’ve written several other essays and opinion pieces on India’s energy politics, including a review essay (“Electricity Markets, Competition, and Independent Regulation,” Economic & Political Weekly, 2015), an article on the politics of reform (“Current Reforms,” Pacific Affairs 2004), an op-ed just after a massive blackout in July 2012 (“India’s Dark Night,” Foreign Affairs 2012), and a comparative analysis of India’s electricity and telecom sectors (“Colonial Legacies,” Governance 2013).

In a new research project, I focus 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. Early publications from this project include an essay on politics in resource-rich Bihar and Odisha (Studies in Comparative International Development in 2014, and a piece on democracy and development in Odisha in the 1990s and 2000s, published in India Review in 2013.

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