Academic

My long-form scholarship has focused mostly on cultural geography and related questions of politics, identity, and society.

India Fulbright Report from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences

Caste in the City: The Dynamics of Class-Caste Mobility in Mumbai [PDF] (07/15/08)

Advised by Professor Ramaiah Avatthi of the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies

This 254-page study delves into the task of formulating a coherent explanation of contemporary Mumbai’s relationship with caste as a dynamic characteristic of individual identity and of membership in broader social groupings. In the commercial, financial, and entertainment capital of India, has caste become more or less of a significant factor in determining housing arrangements, employment, and marriage partners? Do its ongoing manifestations in caste-based socioeconomic class stratification, party politics, reservation, and endogamy ensure that caste will endure for centuries to come? To what extent can individuals and caste-groups extricate themselves from their ostensibly unalterable and permanent station on the caste hierarchy? Do individuals from lower castes have the opportunity to succeed in Mumbai’s most dynamic economic sectors?

The challenge of analyzing the socioeconomic mobility of individuals and of whole castes over time is supremely multidimensional due to sheer complexity, incessant social controversy, and conflation of political ideals with concrete reality. Caste groupings can sometimes be said to have elevated on the socioeconomic class hierarchy merely when a small number of caste members have achieved significant occupational and educational progress – decent government jobs and university degrees – or when ideology becomes so powerful that a whole group psychologically lifts itself out of the abyss of erstwhile untouchability. However, caste traditions die hard, and Indian culture is increasingly host to such incomprehensible paradoxes between seemingly outdated customs and dazzlingly modern innovations and social progress.

Purple Cartogram

University of Pennsylvania Honors Senior Thesis for PPE Program

Feeling Blue and Bleeding Red: The American Ideological Cleavage [PDF] (05/01/05)

Advised by Professor Rogers Smith of the Political Science Department

The complexities of geopolitical and cultural divisions within the United States can be analyzed within the framework of electoral distributions and foreign policy. While not comprising an actual cultural war, these divisions reflect regressive tendencies within the heartland and a burning desire to rollback the sociopolitical process and withdraw from the liberal international community. This paper will first dichotomize the red state-blue state divide and explain how the cleavage is expressed. Second, it will expose the ideological framework of the conservative backlash and its focus on cultural values rather than material concerns.

In electoral terms, the ideological divide within America reflects economic differences that are often a function of geography and race. While the blue Northeastern and Western regions of the country embrace more rapid social and political change, the red heartland tends to fear evaporation of an imaginary past and thus seeks to turn back the clock on progress. This reflects the lack of population pressures on the heartland and a fundamentally primitive outlook vis-à-vis nature and the social order. Not only is this outlook manifested by reactionary domestic politics, but it is also promoted at the farthest reaches of the universal American empire.

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