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Raja Swamy

Raja Swamy

Visiting Assistant Professor

Ph.D. Texas 2011

Disasters and development, globalization, neoliberalism, humanitarianism, NGOs, social movements, India and South Asia.

Raja Swamy earned his Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. Presently working on a manuscript proposal for his first book based on his dissertation research, Swamy’s work investigates the impact of the 2004 Tsunami on economic development priorities in India’s Tamil Nadu state.  Exploring the contradictory outcomes of humanitarian agendas subordinated to the demands of a World Bank-financed and state-led reconstruction project, this work bridges the gap between political ecology and disaster studies by drawing upon rich ethnographic studies of displaced and resistant village communities thriving on the margins of India’s sharp turn towards neoliberal globalization. Swamy’s theoretical engagement with humanitarian “soft power” draws upon substantial empirical data compiled on coastal land use, the contours of relocation, and effects of relocation on household income/expenditure of affected communities. Further research interests span the fraught relationship between heritage tourism and subaltern historical geographies, the emerging relationship between neoliberal restructuring and the rise of the Hindu supremacist movement in India, and South Asian immigrant cultural politics in the United States.

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • Political Anthropology
  • Anthropology of South Asia
  • Religion in Contemporary South Asia

Selected Publications

The construction of risk and opportunity in economic development and humanitarian aid agendas, post-tsunami reconstruction. In Tranquebar and Beyond: Across cultural borders in a South Indian village in past and present, E. Fihl, A.R. Venkatachalapathy (Eds.), Orient Blackswan, 2014.

Disaster Relief, NGO-led Humanitarianism and the Reconfiguration of Spatial Relations in Tamilnadu. In NGO-ization: Complicity, Contradictions and Prospects, Choudry, A., & Kapoor, D. (Eds.), Zed Books, London, 2013

Subaltern Studies. In Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology: An Encyclopedia, McGee, R & Warms, R. (Eds.) SAGE, 2013

Post-Tsunami challenges: The fishing community and heritage tourism in Tarangambadi. Review of Development and Change, Vol. XIV, No.1&2, June-December 2009. Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, India.
Humanitarianism, neoliberal disaster reconstruction, and resistance: the case of Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu. In Resistance to Contemporary Colonization and Rural Dispossession in Asia and Africa. Kapoor, D (Ed.) 2015 (FORTHCOMING)

Conference Papers

Caste and relocation: Dalit-Pattanavar relations and the humanitarian gift economy. Panel: Anthropology and the Future of Caste for South Asians. (Society for Applied Anthropology, Annual Meeting. Albuquerque, New Mexico. March 18-22, 2014.

The Humanitarian Gift: Disinterested Giving, Power and “bad faith” in the Era of Neoliberal Nongovernmentality" Panel: "Recycling Mauss: 'Old' Solidarities in New Times of Crisis. (111th AAA Annual Meetings: Borders and Crossings, Nov. 14 to 18, 2012 San Francisco)

“Memory, Space, and Rights: Sovereigns and Subjects in the Post-Tsunami Humanitarian Gift Economy” Panel: "The Politics of Water and Waste. (Texas South Asia Conference 2012, April 20th, 2012. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas.

“The construction of risk and opportunity in economic development and humanitarian aid agendas, post-tsunami reconstruction.” Symposium: Grappling across cultural borders. Tranquebar: the case of a South Indian village in past and present. June 20th – 22nd 2011. Carlsberg Academy, Copenhagen, Denmark. [Organized by the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark].