Research Interests: Anthropology of the State, Conservation and Development, Climate Change, Tourism, Indigeneity, Borders and Frontiers, Multispecies Ethnography, Environmental History.
Suchismita Das is an Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences division of the School of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of the Centre for Inter-Asian Research. She earned her PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago, and her MA and MPhil in Sociology from Delhi University. She served as a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the University of Chicago and as a lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before joining Ahmedabad University. Her research traces the intersections between environmental vulnerability and political vulnerability on India’s north-eastern frontier.
Suchismita is broadly interested in anthropologically examining the transformation of the Development State in the Anthropocene. Specifically, her research trajectory seeks to assess how a reckoning with climate change impacts ethnopolitics, agrarian imaginaries and disaster preparedness in the Eastern Himalayas. Her doctoral ethnography analyses how ethnic groups participating in market-oriented conservation projects in Sikkim tie their cultural diversity with the valued biodiversity of the landscape, and transform the multicultural politics of the region into a form of bio-cultural politics. She is currently embarking on an ethnographic project that examines infrastructure-collapse in the Himalayan region as a material index of social experiences of climate change.
Seeking Recognition in Assemblages: The Politics of More-than-Human Diversity on the Himalayan Frontier
This book project, based on her doctoral research, aims to widen the scope of the analysis of multicultural recognition in India. Drawing on 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Sikkim, she traces how ‘diversity’ is reimagined in the Anthropocene, when, with the rise of biodiversity conservation discourses, it is not only a social, but also an ecological good. As ethnic minorities hitch their cultural diversity to the valued biota of the region, thereby seeking validation as inter-species assemblages, the book evaluates the scope of this emergent multispecies recognition politics, and its impact on India’s motto of ‘unity in diversity’.
Development Imaginaries, Infrastructure and Climate Subjectivities in Asia - Funded by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC, USA)
Using this ‘Seed Grant for Collaborative Research on Asia’ Dr Das and Dr Hayden Shelby from the University of Cincinnati, USA are parallelly conducting ethnographic studies of border road construction projects in Sikkim, India and of a canal redevelopment program in Bangkok, Thailand. By comparing two infrastructure development projects in two different topographical and geo-political positions in Asia – i.e., an upland border state and a lowland metropolitan city – this study examines the impact of climate change discourses on development imaginaries and planning, and conversely the impact of development imaginaries on climate change discourses and adaptation practices. Their work aims to interrogate how specific material interventions by two development states in the global south mediate people’s experience of climate change and of climate vulnerability, and influences their subjective outlook towards their future in these times of acute environmental vulnerability.
Cultural Analysis of Environmental Precarity and Adaptation in the Eastern Himalayas - Funded by Ahmedabad University
The above mentioned collaborative research is tied to a longer individual ethnographic project focusing on the increasing vulnerability of mountain roads to severe weather conditions, and people's adaptive response to this phenomenon. This study examines environmental adaptation as a negotiation between the politics of development, the science of climate adaptation and the everyday cultural perceptions of precarity.
Peer reviewed, single author:
Courses at Ahmedabad University
Prior under-graduate teaching