Most of my research examines the relationship between identity and development, focusing in particular on how social status shapes redistributive politics. I use a combination of methodological approaches, including statistics, survey experiments, ethnography, interviews, and comparative historical analysis. I also maintain an active research agenda on urban class politics, which is partly motivated by my previous training in urban planning. Included below are summaries and links to some of my current papers.
Identity and Development
1. The Politics of Dignity: How Status Inequality shaped Redistributive Politics in India (under review)
Ranking Indian states on forms of caste inequality
The condition of drainage in one of our field sites in Delhi.
6. Why are some Indian states more Developed?
The question of why some countries and regions enjoy better living conditions than others has attracted the attention of scholars across the social sciences for decades. In fact, some of the most influential works of political economy of India have revolved around this question. Explanations have ranged from the level in public investment during the colonial period to the role of social democratic parties to the nature of land tenure systems. There is no doubt that these studies provide valuable empirical and theoretical insights and form the building blocks for understanding development in India, but so far these theories have not been put to a broader comparative test. This paper reviews the major theories of development and redistribution and tests their validity in the Indian case through longitudinal data on public spending at the subnational level. I find that while richer states do spend more on development, wealth is not associated with redistributive spending. Contrary to expectation, influential theories associated with redistribution – like the political ideology of the government, strength of social cohesiveness or sub-nationalism, ethnic diversity, and the class and caste base of the ruling coalition – are not associated with redistributive spending. In line with the literature on welfare, however, I find that a number of Indian states show definite patterns in social spending and can be categorized as distinct welfare regimes.
8. Who Owns the State: Does the Identity of Bureaucrats Matter? (data collection on hold due to Covid-19)
A typical appointment board in a BDO office in Bihar.
AAP leader, Arvind Kejriwal, campaigning in the New Delhi constituency before the 2013 Delhi Assembly Elections
12. Impact of Information Campaigns on Claims-Making in Urban Slums (available upon request)