My doctoral thesis aims to contribute to an understanding of how politically equal, but socially and ‘capability-unequal’ people engage with decentralized institutions of governance. Through fieldwork in two Indian States (Bihar and West Bengal), I attempt to develop a more politicized account of the Capability Approach. I argue that, at least at the local level, the practice of ‘contentious politics’ in ‘political society’ directly enhances human capabilities. By ‘contentious politics’, I refer to the variety of political practices that renders ‘the political’ space not only as one where actors compete for resources, but rather as one where the dominant politico-economic and socio-cultural structures are contested. By 'political society', I mean the ensemble- formal and informal- of actors, norms and institutions that influence decisions. You can read more about my doctoral research here.
A fellowship from the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) enabled me to recently (July 2010) conclude a study comparing the impact of the instruments currently used by the Indian Government to identify the poor with the impact of proposed instruments. A research paper has been submitted to the Economic and Political Weekly for publication, and is currently being reviewed.
I also participated in the Ground Reality Check (April to June 2010) exercise conducted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and OPHI to validate the multi-dimensional poverty indices that is proposed to be presented in the Human Development Reports starting November 2010. The purpose of the GRC was to compare the extent to which households that were ‘poor’ according to the official measure used by governments or NGOs could also be considered to be ‘multi-dimensionally’ poor. Further, the GRC compiled profiles of those who could be considered ‘multi-dimensionally’ poor so as to be able to document the diverse meanings and conceptions of what it meant to be poor.
I briefly worked with the World Bank (July to October 2009), as member of the team working to develop a Policy Research Report on ‘Community-driven Development and Local Governance’. The team was led by economists Vijayendra Rao and Ghazala Mansuri, who were revisiting their earlier work on this subject. My main responsibility was to undertake desk research on the historical developments in community-driven development and local governance, a mapping of the different trajectories that these approaches have taken in the different parts of the globe, and specific experiences of different countries. As part of this assignment, I was tasked with compiling the experiences of local governance in Bolivia, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, Uganda, the Philippines and China.
I have authored research papers, based on qualitative and quantitative data. These works have appeared in high-quality peer-reviewed journals such as World Development, Journal of Contemporary South Asia (co-authored) and Socio-Economic Review. These papers broadly dealt with emerging issues in development, and particularly took a critical stance vis-à-vis the mantra of good governance and empowered civil society. Other shorter and more topical, if sometimes reflective, pieces have appeared in Developments: Journal of the Society for International Development, Economic and Political Weekly and Himal. These papers have been referenced by emerging and established scholars: for instance, one of the EPW papers on urban governance and poverty has been cited by renowned academic John Harriss (formerly at the LSE, UK and currently at the Simon Fraser University, Canada) here and here.
I have published with several peer-reviewed journals. Some of my select publications are here:
You can also visit my blog
(which is currently being refurbished)
on different aspects of politics and development. I am sure you will
find it a good place to have conversations,
arguments, and to learn from others. So, please feel free to drop in.
Here is another blog on a Conference on 'Democracy, Governance and Development: Betweeen the Institutional and the Political', which I am organizing in June.
You can follow my academic work here.
I am also on LinkedIn, so feel free to get in touch if appropriate.