Indivar Jonnalagadda

About Me

I am an ethnographer, teacher, writer, and multimodal creator. Currently, I am a PhD Candidate in Anthropology and South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. I combine ethnographic, archival, spatial, and quantitative methods to research urban environments, governance, and politics, primarily in Indian cities. I have conducted both individual and collaborative research on a range of topics such as housing rights, land markets, sanitation infrastructure, renewable energy, and education, among others. My previous affiliations include Hyderabad Urban Lab and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

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My dissertation project titled Permanent Slums: Subaltern Property and Citizenship in Hyderabad  examines the legally fraught property claims of slum-dwellers which bring into sharp focus the intersecting relations of caste, class and citizenship that shape the everyday lives of the urban poor. Through participant observation, semi-structured interviews, oral and archival history, and discourse analysis, I show that although the typical approach of city governments in the Global South is to make concessions for the settlement practices of poor populations, in sum the status of slum-dwellers as subaltern citizens is re-enforced through the use of racialized legal categories and differentiated policies and procedures. Framed by the push for “slum-free cities” on the one hand, and the increasing pressures of shrinking employment and receding social security for the urban poor on the other hand, my dissertation is an account of how the urban slum is produced and governed, and how these processes reproduce unequal cities and citizenship.

Through various collaborations I am also currently pursuing projects which engage the following research interests: everyday land/revenue administration, affordable housing policy, politics of caste associations, and the anthropology of markets in South Asia. Prior to the PhD, as a researcher at Hyderabad Urban Lab, I conducted ethnographic research on sanitation infrastructure, housing rights, and the privatization of education. My current and past research projects have resulted in publications, conference presentations, blogs, and other multimodal outputs. You can access PDFs on the Publications page, and find links to other outputs in the Project Gallery.


As a teacher, I train students to utilize conceptual tools to ask critical and creative questions about both their own and others’ socio-economic realities. In my classes--whether they are on social justice, urbanization, or globalization--by including diverse materials on the syllabi and by advising students in selecting project topics, I guide them to think outside their own specific interests and understand the relational make-up of everyday life. My teaching repertoire spans foundational courses in anthropology, human geography, social theory, environmental studies, urban studies, development studies, and South Asia studies. I am also excited to teach specialized courses on the following themes: (i) urbanization and environment; (ii) racialization and inequality; (iii) development and governance; and (iv) citizenship and democracy.

Public Engagements

My professional work as an academic scholar is in constant conversation with a range of voluntary and community-based engagements. Since my time as an MA student in Mumbai and as a research professional in Hyderabad, I have maintained close ties and regularly contribute time and labor to the activities of grassroots activists, local NGOs, and educational institutions. Most notably, through a continued engagement with the locally rooted research and advocacy organization Hyderabad Urban Lab, I continue to participate in the political and cultural life of Hyderabad city. Further, I use my skills as a researcher, writer, filmmaker and designer to advocate for a range of causes and institutions that I care deeply about.