Environmental politics, urban sociology, economic sociology, global/comparative sociology, ethnography, South Asia
Ph.D. University of Michigan
My research examines the cultural politics of environmental institutions in urban India and the United States. I am interested in understanding the processes through which racial & caste differences are institutionalized at multiple scales; tracing the effects of these inequalities; and locating sites of active and potential resistance. To date, my work has examined the cultivation of territorial stigma through regional governance institutions in the case of the Detroit water system (International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 2016, best paper award); the challenges of resistance during the Flint water crisis (Critical Sociology 2018); the postcolonial dimensions of urban development in the case of Indian solid waste programs (Local Environment 2019); the “casteification” of Muslims in Delhi’s recycling economy (Economic & Political Weekly 2019); and the preservation of informal institutions through what I call “practical legitimacy” (Social Forces 2020). I am currently working on a book manuscript based on over 20 months of ethnographic research in Delhi addressing why the city’s informal garbage collection and recycling workforce—which is the only system of recycling in the city—managed to persist in the face of new public-private partnership (PPP) programs that brought collection trucks and incinerators. The manuscript demonstrates how renewed relations based on caste and community are solidified through transactions of garbage, scrap, and money in order to provide a durable social infrastructure.
As an instructor and mentor, I consistently emphasize the importance of connecting social theory with practical knowledge. Social theory has been vital to my own political awakening, provoking me to join struggles for social transformation and justice, and I similarly empower students to locate their agency in relation to wider social structures.
Urban Society, Economic Life within and beyond Markets, The Sociology of Garbage