I am an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University, where I have been since receiving my PhD from the University of California-Berkeley in 2013. My research and teaching interests fall in the fields of development sociology, political sociology, agrarian political economy, and social theory. I have had a long-standing intellectual and political engagement with the phenomenon of rural land dispossession for “development projects” such as dams and now Special Economic Zones (SEZs). While dispossession has been a marginal topic in sociology, I believe that the increasing global significance of “land grabs” demands a sociology of dispossession that will prove consequential for our understanding of states, capitalism, agrarian change, and political contention in large parts of the world.
My book, Dispossession without Development: Land Grabs in Neoliberal India (Oxford University Press, 2018), seeks to understand the changing nature and increasing significance of land dispossession in post-liberalization India. It is based, in part, on an ethnography of villages dispossessed for an SEZ in Rajasthan. Using the extended case method, it seeks to advance the concept of regimes of dispossession as a way of understanding the relationship between land dispossession and capitalism in comparative perspective.
I have since been pursuing a series of comparative projects that seek to explain variation in political responses to dispossession, and in its outcomes for caste, class, and gender inequality.
When the pandemic started, I was working on an ethnographic project on “land mafia” in rural India. With this project on hiatus, I have turned by attention to the politics of climate change mitigation/energy transition in the rural United States.
Another set of research interests focuses more broadly on trajectories of agrarian change in the Global South. To this end, I have co-edited two special issues of Journal of Peasant Studies on “New Directions in Agrarian Political Economy” (2014) and “Agrarian Marxism” (2018).
A subsidiary research interest is on changing global patterns of public opinion towards states and markets across the world in the neoliberal period. With Marcel Paret, I have used the World Values Survey to analyze changes in public opinion towards neoliberalism over time, across countries, and across social groups. We are currently working on a follow-up project that examines changes in left and right populist opinions over the world since the 2008 financial crisis.
I have published scholarly articles in Politics and Society, Sociology of Development, World Development, International Sociology, Development and Change, Journal of Agrarian Change, Journal of Peasant Studies, Economic and Political Weekly, Journal of Contemporary Asia, and the Berkeley Journal of Sociology.
I am also committed to public sociology and have written on the topic of dispossession in periodicals and newspapers in India. See here for my op-ed in The Hindu on proposed changes to India’s Land Acquisition Act.