Current Institutional Affiliation
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of California / Los Angeles
Techno-Politics of ICTs: Investigating Bureaucratic Practices and Subjectivities in the Digital Age

Since the mid-1990s, transnational development institutions have touted Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as appropriate tools to reform government bureaucracies across the Global South. In India, while investment in ICTs for transparency and accountability is at its highest since the liberalization of the economy in 1991, multiple sources report that this has not led to substantial difference in everyday experiences with local state institutions. Yet, based on preliminary fieldwork, this research hypothesizes that ICTs entanglement with paper technologies lead to new material conditions for bureaucratic work that transforms practices and experiences of bureaucrats who constitute the everyday working of the state. Thus focusing on the techno-political effects of two ICT programs in the district bureaucracies of Karnataka – the largest user of ICTs in the country, the research asks - 1) If ICTs have not meeting their putative goals of ushering in transparency and accountability, what have they been doing? What new people, things and institutions emerge as the materiality of bureaucracy, historically premised on paper, is being increasingly supplemented and transformed by ICTs? 2) How are bureaucratic practices and subjectivities being transformed in this interaction between old and new technologies? As the first full-length ethnography to study the effects of ICTs on bureaucracies - recognized by social scientists as central to the construction of states, my research will produce knowledge about the post-liberalized state in India, as well as advance culturally embedded anthropological understandings of digital technologies in contemporary India outside the centers of mega-urbanity.