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School of Politics and International Relations

Dr Lipika Kamra

Lipika

Lecturer in Politics and International Relations of South Asia

Email: l.kamra@qmul.ac.uk
Room Number: Arts One, 2.27A
Twitter: @KamraLipika
Office Hours: Monday 11-12 (online) & Thursday 4-5pm (F2F)

Profile

I am a political anthropologist studying the state, development and democracy from an ethnographic perspective. My research and teaching interests crisscross political and social anthropology, comparative politics, gender studies, development studies, and South Asian politics. More specifically, I am interested in examining how states and their citizens interact in insurgency and counterinsurgency contexts; how women mediate the terrain of development and democracy in the Global South; and how digital media increasingly influences everyday politics.

I am currently completing a book manuscript on counterinsurgency as a driver of statemaking in the margins of modern India. The book focuses on non-military modes of counterinsurgency, such as development, and how these frame state-society relations. I pay particular attention to the relationships between state actors and rural women that emerge in a counterinsurgency context, and how women navigate citizenship and development in rural India.

I lead a project Social Media and Everyday Life with Philippa Williams. The project examines how the digital messaging app, WhatsApp shapes everyday political life from the family to political party and the nation in India. The initial phase of this research was funded by WhatsApp. We are now embarking on a second phase focused on lived experiences of digital privacy in India. (2019-).

I am also conducting fieldwork for a project on women voters in India, which studies how women voters think about the act of voting and the idea of democratic citizenship.

I hold a DPhil in International Development from the University of Oxford. Prior to teaching at Queen Mary, I have taught at the School of Liberal Arts and Humanities, O.P. Jindal Global University, India and at Georgetown University, Qatar.

Office hour joining link 

Latest Academic Articles

Kamra, L .(2020) Women’s Collectives and State-led Development in West Bengal: Reimagining Selves during Counterinsurgency, Journal of South Asian Development 15 (3): 352-370, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0973174120965355

Kamra, L. (2020) The Politics of Hopeful Citizenship: Women,   Counterinsurgency and the State in Eastern India, Critique of Anthropology, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0308275X20974082

Media 

Williams, P. and Kamra, L. (2021) WhatsApp’s controversial privacy update may be banned in the EU – but the app’s sights are fixed on India, The Conversation, 13 May 2021, https://theconversation.com/whatsapps-controversial-privacy-update-may-be-banned-in-the-eu-but-the-apps-sights-are-fixed-on-india-160730

Kamra, L. and P. Williams (2019) Strategies to tackle extreme speech on WhatsApp must bring together socio-political, digital worlds, Scroll, 11 May 2019, https://scroll.in/article/921342/strategies-to-tackle-extreme-speech-on-whatsapp-must-bring-together-socio-political-digital-worlds

Kamra, L. (2019) Women voters and the 2019 Indian Elections, Asia Dialogue, University of Nottingham, 27 March 2019, http://theasiadialogue.com/2019/03/27/women-voters-and-the-2019-indian-elections/

Research

Research Interests:

My current research projects can be split into 3 themes:

1. Statemaking and Counterinsurgency: This research challenges work which treats counterinsurgency merely as a top-down policy agenda and ignores the everyday nuances of state-society relations in counterinsurgency contexts, and how state -citizen relations often lie betwixt and between acquiescence and resistance. My book manuscript , Making and Remaking the State, examines the relationship between counterinsurgency, statemaking, citizenship and development in modern India. Drawing on archival and ethnographic research on the Jungle Mahals of West Bengal, I explore how counterinsurgency recurs as a primary driver of colonial and postcolonial statemaking in regions associated today with the Maoist insurgency in India. I pay particular attention to the relationships between state actors and rural women that emerge in a counterinsurgency context, and how women navigate citizenship and development in rural India. This book draws on my doctoral research, and parts of it have been published in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes. 

2. Digital Technology and Everyday Politics: My research in this area examines how digital technology is reshaping democratic politics and the politics of development. I am a co-investigator on a WhatsApp funded project with Philippa Williams (QMUL Geography) on ‘Social media and Everyday Life’ which examines the role of WhatsApp in shaping political life and subjectivities in India. We have now extended the project to examine situated experiences of (digital) privacy (not funded by WhatsApp). For further information see the project website

I am beginning research on a new project on gender, digital technology and the state. In the backdrop of the Indian state mandating women development workers to use smartphones, I seek to examine how women respond to the compulsory use of digital technology in their everyday work and life.

I am also leading a British Academy seed-funded project on comparing the use of digital technology during elections in South Asia and Latin America. Along with Ainhoa Montoya(School of Advanced Study, University of London, I am building a network of academics who work on this theme in both regions.

3. Women and Democracy: Over the past decade, women in India are voting in elections much more than before and political parties have started to take them seriously as a separate electorate. Within this context, I am conducting fieldwork since 2019 among women voters of different age, caste, class and generational backgrounds, to understand how they perceive the act of voting, and how they imagine themselves as democratic citizens in a society where gender inequalities continue to persist. While political scientists and election analysts have now started to write about woman voters in their analyses, there is still no qualitative study which reveals what women in India think about the act of voting, whether their gender influences their voting behaviour, whether women vote for who the male members of the family vote for or, and whether they have strong preferences in terms of parties and candidates.

The second strand of my work on women and democracy is on gender and the language of politics. I am part of the research team of an ERC-funded project ‘India’s Politics in its Vernaculars’, led by Anastasia Piliavsky (King’s College London). As part of this project, I shall study women-aimed rhetoric in Indian politics. In particular, I will focus on the idioms and language shat political parties in north India use to address women voters in their campaigns and election manifestoes. And how women voters, in turn, adopt this political language, and also create their own.

Examples of research funding:

WhatsApp Misinformation and Social Science Research Awards (Co-Investigator), $ 47000, for project titled “Social Media and Everyday Life in India”, 2018- (along with Dr. Philippa Williams at Queen Mary University of London)

British Academy Seed Funding (Co-Principal Investigator), £2375 for project on “Technologies of Democracy in Post Conflict Contexts in South Asia and Latin America”, 2019-20 (along with Dr. Ainhoa Montoya at the University of London)

ERASMUS+ International Credit Mobility or Staff Mobility for Training, June 2019,Queen Mary University of London-O.P. Jindal Global University Exchange, € 2000 to cover cost of travel, accommodation and living expenses

Publications

Journal Articles

Kamra, L. (under review)  State Categories and their Afterlives: The Politics of ‘Tribalisation’ in Eastern India, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Williams, P and L. Kamra (forthcoming) No room for dissent: Domesticating WhatsApp, digital private spaces and lived democracy in India. Antipode.

Kamra, L. and D. Sen (2020) Women’s Collectives and Social Transformations in South Asia: Negotiations, Navigations, and Self-Making, Journal of South Asian Development 15 (3): 309-315, Introduction to special issue, co-edited with Debarati Sen, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0973174120987091

Kamra, L .(2020) Women’s Collectives and State-led Development in West Bengal: Reimagining Selves during Counterinsurgency, Journal of South Asian Development 15 (3): 352-370, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0973174120965355

Kamra, L. (2020) The Politics of Hopeful Citizenship: Women,   Counterinsurgency and the State in Eastern India, Critique of Anthropology, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0308275X20974082

Kamra, L. and S. Khatri (2020)The Pandemic in the Periphery of Delhi: Covid-19 and Boundary (Re)Making in Peri-Urban India, City and Society, Covid Dispatches 2020, https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ciso.12332  

Kamra, L. (2019) The Expanded State in in India: Counterinsurgency and the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship, Contemporary South Asia 27 (1): 1-14. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09584935.2018.1447910 

Kamra, L. (2013)Self-Making through Self-Writing: Non-Sovereign Agency in Women's Memoirs from the Naxalite

Movement, South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal (SAMAJ) 7, URL: http://samaj.revues.org/3608.     

Book Chapters

Kamra, L. and U. Chandra (2017) ‘Maoism and the Masses: Critical Reflections on Revolutionary Praxis and Subaltern Agency’, in Ajay Gudavarthy (ed.), Democracy and Revolutionary Violence (New Delhi and London: Sage Publications).

Kamra, L. (2014) ‘The Women’s Question and Indian Maoism’, in Kenneth Bo Nielsen and Anne Waldrop (eds.), Women, Gender, and Everyday Social Transformation in India (London: Anthem Press), pp. 219-234.

Book Reviews

Kamra, L.  (2017) on  Decentring Development: Understanding Change in Agrarian Societies by Tanya Jakimow,, in Journal of South Asian Development 12(3), pp 338-341.

Kamra, L. (2016) on Democracy against Development: Lower-Caste Politics and Political Modernity in Postcolonial India by Jeffrey Witsoe,  in Journal of the Royal Anthropological  Institute 22 (1), pp 220-221.

Kamra, L (2014) on Theorizing NGOs: States, Feminisms and   Neoliberalism,  by Inderpal Grewal and Victoria Bernal (eds.), in Social Anthropology 22 (4), pp 490-91. 

Kamra, L (2013) on South Asian Feminisms by Ania Loomba and Ritty A. Lukose (eds.),  in Contemporary South Asia, 21(4), pp.474-75.  

Kamra,L. (2013) on Remembering Revolution: Gender, Violence, and Subjectivity in India’s Naxalbari Movement by Srila Roy, in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 19 (4), pp. 913-14.