My long-form scholarship has focused mostly on cultural geography, addressing questions at the nexus 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 formulated a comprehensive 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 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 position on the caste hierarchy? Do individuals from lower castes have the opportunity to succeed in Bombay?

The challenge of analyzing the flux of whole castes over time is multidimensional due to sheer complexity, incessant social controversy, and conflation of political ideals with concrete reality. Caste groupings are said to move up on the 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 untouchability. However, caste traditions die hard, and Indian culture contains incomprehensible paradoxes between seemingly outdated customs and dazzlingly modern innovations.

Purple Cartogram

University of Pennsylvania Honors Senior Thesis for the 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. The culture war reflects regressive tendencies within the heartland, including the burning desire to rollback sociopolitical progress and withdraw from the liberal international community. This paper dichotomized the red state-blue state divide and explained how the cleavage is expressed. Second, it articulated 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 core tends to fear evaporation of the mythical past. This reflects the lack of population pressures and a divergent outlook vis-à-vis nature and the social order. Not only is this perspective expressed at home, but it is also promoted at the farthest reaches of the American empire.

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