material infrastructures and semiotic practices of political communication and representation; crowds, publics, and political assembly; embodied knowledge, “truth” claims, and material practices of authentication; theatricality as an idiom of political communication; port cities and transoceanic relations of trust and trade; time, memory and achaar.
I am a political ethnographer and anthropologist interested in the material infrastructures and mediations of political life. My research in the Indian city of Mumbai has studied how global-level processes of urbanization and urban transformation are redrawing lines of socio-spatial inclusions and exclusions in that city, animating new arenas of political mobilization, contention and representation. My current research builds on themes that emerged out of my doctoral research on everyday politics of infrastructural provisioning and access in Mumbai, to explicitly pursue an anthropology of democracy, mediation and mass-political representation in contemporary India.
My first book, Pipe Politics, Contested Waters: Embedded Infrastructures of Millennial Mumbai (Duke University Press 2015), based on my doctoral research at the New School for Social Research, was awarded the American Institute of Indian Studies’ Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences in 2014. After receiving a PhD in 2012, I joined the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen as a research fellow. My postdoctoral research extended my focus on the everyday politics of infrastructure to focus ethnographic attention more explicitly on the formal institutions of politics; my postdoctoral research studied the role of election-season cash gifting and exchange in producing and reconfiguring socio-political networks of power and authority in Mumbai. My second book, Waiting Town: Life in transit and Mumbai’s Other World-Class Histories, published by Columbia University Press in 2020, is an ethnographic account of knowledge production and the politics of truthmaking. My most recent book, a collaborative monograph titled Bombay Brokers, was published with Duke University Press in 2021.
In 2015 I joined the faculty of Urban Affairs at the University of Louisville, where I teach graduate level courses on “The Urban Political”, “Urban Dis/possession”, and “Urban Ethnography (methods and methodologies)”. I am a currently a principal investigator on an ESRC-funded project “(Re)thinking the Off-Grid City Research Programme,” (2021–2024) - which is exploring questions of infrastructure and impoverishment and of regional comparison between Lahore, Mumbai, and Colombo and is housed at University of Edinburgh – and I am also the Mumbai investigator on an ERC-funded project on India's Political Ideas in its Vernaculars, housed at King’s College, London. In January 2021 I joined the Department Anthropology of Politics and Governance at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle as a Humboldt Senior Research Fellow. My current research at the MPI on “Material mediations, crowd politics, and theatrical idiom of political speech in contemporary India”, will result in a book-length monograph.