Current project | Environmental displacement and precarious livelihoods in Madh Island, Mumbai

My current research explores the climate change-human mobility nexus with an ethnographic focus on Madh Island in northern Mumbai.

Each year from September to June, Madh Island receives hundreds of migrant workers coming from other parts of Maharashtra as well as the states of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal. Many of these migrants belong to rural farming communities and seek employment in Mumbai due to rainfall deficits in their native places. In Madh, Koli fishing families employ migrants for various tasks including mending nets, sorting shrimps, and bunching fish for open-air drying. However, due to the effects of climate change, fishing communities’ traditional livelihoods are increasingly at risk: fishing activity has been adversely affected by floods, storms, oceanic plastic, rising sea level, and changes in rainfall patterns. For instance, thunderstorms affect the movement of fish, causing fish with high commercial value to migrate to other regions (Senapati & Gupta 2014; 2015).

My ethnographic research explores how migrant workers and Koli fishing communities in Madh Island perceive environmental changes and how they devise strategies of adaptation and alternative livelihoods. I also study the factors that, together with climate change, cause people to migrate to Mumbai and the impact of migration on their social and material resources. Moreover, I analyze how the movement of workers and fish affects Kolis’ traditional occupation and how the Koli community makes claims on state and civil society actors in their struggle for sustainable livelihoods.

The research is part of the project Sustainable Livelihoods and Politics at the Margins: Environmental Displacement in South Asia, which explores how people perceive and negotiate their weather and climate-related displacement, and how they struggle for their right to earn a sustainable living. The four-year project (2018-2022) is funded by the Academy of Finland.


PhD project | Differentiated citizenship, displacement, and materiality in state-citizen relations in Ahmedabad

My doctoral dissertation examines the character of relations between the state and the citizens in the context of large-scale urban redevelopment in Ahmedabad. Based on ethnographic methods, it explores how the entanglement of the world-class aesthetic and Hindu nationalism in Ahmedabad reconstructs citizenship, nation, and the state, and how people displaced in the name of development perceive the state and negotiate the changing terms of belonging. It analyses the aftermath of the displacement and resettlement of urban poor with a focus on everyday life in Sadbhavna Nagar, one of the most populous resettlement sites in the city.