Conference Panel: South Asian Materialities; Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison

I’ve organized a panel at the Annual Conference on South Asia to be held at UW-Madison from October 17-20, 2019. The panel highlights the gritty materialities of (non)human actors in Indian cities and their complicity in creating new urban socialities and subjectivities. Details below:

South Asian Materialities: Materializing urban change in South Asia

Over the last two decades, scholars in the humanities and social sciences have increasingly attended to the emergence of new patterns of social life by studying everyday nonhuman elements like urban water supply systems (Bjorkman, 2015), roads and canals (Harvey & Knox, 2015), media technologies (Larkin, 2008), and multispecies entanglements (Govindrajan, 2018) This approach has been instrumental in (re)orienting our attention to the vitality of quotidian things (Bennet, 2010) and their agency in creating new social patterns of living. While some of the new materialist scholarship has been criticized for its lack of theorization of power, other scholars have highlighted the relational agency of nonhuman actors through an assemblage framework (Ranganathan, 2015) and an actor-network framework (Sundberg, 2011).

This panel builds on this recent material/posthuman turn in the humanities and social sciences to explore situated studies of nonhuman agency in South Asia and their complicity in creating new urban subjectivities and its contested politics. Building on some of the above work, the panel seeks to think with and through the nonhuman actor to explore how different kinds of socialities are created, constituted and produced. Through case studies exploring the materiality of concrete, sand, daily wage labor, and animals in Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai, this panel aims to ground and materialize meta-narratives of urbanization and change in South Asia drawing on scholarship from Geography, Anthropology, History, Architecture, and Urban Studies.


Bennett, J. (2009). Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press.

Björkman, L. (2015). Pipe Politics, Contested Waters: Embedded Infrastructures of Millennial Mumbai. Duke University Press.

Govindrajan, R. (2017). Animal Intimacies: Interspecies Relatedness in India’s Central Himalayas. The University of Chicago Press.

Harvey, P., & Knox, H. (2015). Roads: An Anthropology of Infrastructure and Expertise. Cornell University Press.

Larkin, B. (2008). Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria. Durham: Duke University Press Books.

Ranganathan, M. (2015). Storm Drains as Assemblages: The Political Ecology of Flood Risk in Post-Colonial Bangalore: Stormwater Drains as Assemblages. Antipode, 47(5), 1300–1320.

Sundberg, J. (2011). Diabolic caminos in the desert and cat fights on the Río: A posthumanist political ecology of boundary enforcement in the United States–Mexico borderlands. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 101:318-336.


Organizer: Siddharth Menon, PhD student, Department of Geography, UW-Madison

Chair: Nikhil Rao, Associate Professor of History, Wellesley College

Discussant: Sainath Suryanarayanan, Population Health Institute, UW-Madison


  1. Ned Dostaler, PhD Student, Department of Anthropology, UC Berkeley

City of Sand: Urban Ecologies and Uncertain Life in Chennai

  1. Adam Sargent, Postdoctoral Researcher, Northwestern University

“If Not then How Would Delhi be Built?”:  The Material Attunements of Urban Development

  1. Rachel Sturman, Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies, Bowdoin College

Shifting Sands: On Matter and Time in Contemporary Mumbai

  1. Thomas Oommen, PhD student, Department of Architecture, UC Berkeley

Monkeying with New Delhi: Notes towards a Post Human, Post Natural Urban History









Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: