I am Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen. I am a political anthropologist of urban South Asia. I completed my PhD in Social Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies (2003), University of London. Between 2004-2015, I held prominent academic positions at the University of Sussex and the University of Manchester in the UK. My research and publications trajectory focuses on large-scale militant political movements in the city that create micro-cultures of violence in confined urban spaces. I have conducted projects on right-wing activism, communal conflict and guerrilla movements in Indian cities (Mumbai, Hyderabad, Calcutta and Dharamsala), and explored the impact of these movements on slums, refugee colonies and prisons.
I am the author of Shiv Sena Women: Violence and Communalism in a Bombay Slum (2007) and co-editor (with Dr David Pratten) of Global Vigilantes: New Perspectives on Justice and Violence (2008).
Member of the researcher groups Conflict, Power and Politics, and Globalisation and Development.
I initiated my research journey on gender and conflict in the communally tense, migrant workers’ slums of Bombay. I explored the emerging urban worlds of poor migrant women, and uncovered the social logic of semi-criminalized slum women affiliating themselves with an extremist Hindu nationalist struggle in the city. My acclaimed monograph, Shiv Sena women: Violence and Conflict in a Bombay Slum (2007), eventually challenged feminist and development critiques of right-wing women, and reviewed representations of ‘the bad poor’ in South Asia.
During my fieldwork, I encountered a confused masculinity amongst young boys negotiating their impending adulthood in the shadow of militant women with a notorious public image. My emerging interest in organized male child violence subsequently led me to a riot-affected slum in Hyderabad in southern India. At Hyderabad, I did further research among Muslim vigilante boys, who coordinated systems of patrolling and discourses of retribution to protect a ravaged minority community.
While involved in these research projects, I became interested in political affect and restricted spaces in the city that generated a ‘hidden’ ethos of violence and captivity (such as reform and correctional centres for political prisoners involved in armed conflict). Moving beyond neighbourhood ethnographies, I am currently conducting research amongst a network of former Maoist guerillas, and investigating their experiences of political imprisonment in 1970s Calcutta. This research on cultures of confinement explores the journey from extreme empowerment (as violent, politically motivated revolutionaries) to extreme victimhood (torture, beatings, prison rapes and riots) through the lens of ‘exceptional and extraordinary memories’, and their reconstruction as neo-urban narratologies of civil rights in South Asia. This project forms the foundation of my current monograph (writing in progress) entitled ‘‘Morgue tags and body bags’ -- Ethno-histories, custodial death/disappearances and state torture in urban India’.
By challenging narrow representations of violence and poverty in non-western societies, the entire gamut of my research is oriented towards widening the anthropology of subaltern places and practices.
For my current project on global cashlessness and urban poverty click on the following link:
I have several media associations and activities which are related to my research. Select examples
BBC Radio 4 programme, Beyond Belief, on the conflicting impact of Hindu female icons on real women, 2012
BBC Radio 4 current affairs programme including my interview on the Delhi rape case, 2013
BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour programme including my interview on women vigilantes in India, 2013
BBC Radio 4 Documentary, Terror Through Time: Tiger, Tiger 2014
BBC Radio 4 Programme, Indian Elections 2014
BBC Radio 4 Programme, Beyond Belief 2015