I am an Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (STS) at MIT. I earned my doctorate in cultural anthropology at NYU and have been a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Dartmouth College. I also hold an M. Phil and an MA in sociology from the Delhi School of Economics.
My forthcoming book, Enduring Cancer: Life, Death and Diagnosis in Delhi (Duke University Press, August 2020), is an ethnography of cancer in India. Enduring Cancer presents the efforts of the urban poor in Delhi to carve out a livable life with cancer, as they negotiate an over-extended health system struggling to respond to the disease. Through ethnographic fieldwork, archival research and analyses of cultural texts, I describe how cancer shapes and is shaped by such local social worlds.
I just finished another book project: Hematologies: The Political Life of Blood in India (Cornell University Press, forthcoming December 2019). Hematologies is co-written with anthropologist Jacob Copeman. It examines how the giving and receiving of blood has shaped social and political life in north India in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Across a range of field sites, we trace how the substance congeals political ideologies, biomedical rationalities and activist practice. From anti-colonial appeals to blood sacrifice as a political philosophy to contemporary portraits of political leaders drawn with blood, from the use of the substance by Bhopali children as activist material to biomedical anxieties and aporias about the excess and lack of donation. the book reveals a productive and dynamic relation between practices that produce and reproduce blood as a boundary-marking substance, and those that seek to re-imagine the substance as able to transcend moral imperatives of kin, caste and religion.
My current research project—A Counter History of Computing in India—tracks the historical and contemporary lives of computing technologies in India. Contemporary scholarly and popular narratives about computing and IT in the region suggest that even as India supplies cheap technological labor to the rest of the world, the country lags in basic computing education, research and development. The more generous of these accounts suggest that India is beginning to ‘catch up’ with the developed world. This perception fuels two further false assumptions. First, that Indian technology workers are low-skilled and not innovative. Second, that for decades India has been stealing rather than developing intellectual property. A Counter History of Computing in India challenges these representations. It explores a long-ignored postcolonial history of indigenous computing in India from the 1950s to the present, tracing the shifting relationship between the Indian state, computing technologies and local and global capital markets over this period.
My research has been funded by the Levitan Prize for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, The Humanities Initiative at NYU, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council. I also earned the New York Advanced Certificate in Culture and Media, and my film The Beloved Witness on the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali was nominated for the Best Short Documentary at the New York Indo-American Film Festival.