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Professor John Harriss


             John Harriss


John Harriss became interested in the anthropology of India and in the political economy of development as a result of a journey overland to India, and of travels in Punjab, in 1969, just as the ‘green revolution’ was taking off. His first field research, in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, in the early 1970s, was concerned with the social implications of the introduction of modern agricultural technology, and resulted in one of the few Indian village monographs to deal substantially with agrarian production relations, as well as with caste and kinship. He has retained a strong interest in agrarian change, and in the transformations of caste, reflected in recent writing, some of it based on further village studies in Tamil Nadu. His second major project took him, however, to the industrial city of Coimbatore, and to work both on the sociology of labour markets, and on industrial organization. A third body of research, based mainly on fieldwork in Chennai, had to do with ideas of trust and of social capital, but also led him to revisit the work of Milton Singer on the ‘industrial leaders’ of Madras, and this to some study of modern Hinduism. Subsequently he has undertaken ethnographic research on civil society and urban politics in both Delhi and Chennai, and most recently on the politics of business in Tamil Nadu. He has written widely on modern India. 

Selected Publications 

1982 Capitalism and Peasant Farming:  agrarian structure and ideology in northern Tamil Nadu. Oxford University Press.

1986 The Working Poor and the Labour Aristocracy in a South Indian City:  a descriptive and analytical account, Modern Asian Studies, 20, 2 pps 231-28

2000 Reinventing India: Liberalization, Hindu Nationalism and Popular Democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press; and Delhi: Oxford University Press (with Stuart Corbridge).

2001/2002 Depoliticizing Development: the World Bank and Social Capital. Delhi: LeftWord,  UK and US Editions London: Anthem Press 2002

2003 The Great Tradition Globalizes: reflections on two studies of “the industrial leaders” of Madras, Modern Asian Studies. April 2003 

2003 ‘Widening the Radius of Trust’: Ethnographic Explorations of Trust and Indian Business, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 9 (4): 755-773 

2006 Middle Class Activism and the Politics of the Informal Working Class: A Perspective on Class Relations and Civil Society in Indian Cities. Critical Asian Studies 38 (4): 445-465

2009 Bringing Politics Back Into Poverty Analysis: Why Understanding of Social Relations Matters More for Policy on Chronic Poverty than Measurement, in T Addison, D Hulme and R Kanbur (eds) Poverty Dynamics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press 

2010  ‘Land, Labour and Caste Politics in Rural Tamil Nadu in the Twentieth Century: Iruvelpattu 1916-2008’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 45, No. 31, pp 47-61 (with J.Jeyaranjan and K.Nagaraj)

2013 India Today: Economy, Politics and Society (with Stuart Corbridge and Craig Jeffrey). Cambridge: Polity Press 

2015  ‘Science, Politics and the Framing of Modern Agricultural Technologies’,  in Ronald J. Herring (ed) The Oxford Handbook of Food, Politics and Society. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp.  43-64 (with Drew Stewart)

2017 Privilege in Dispute: Economic and Political Change and Caste Relations in Tamil Nadu Early in the 21st Century. In Surinder Jodhka and James Manor (eds) Caste in India Today. Delhi: Orient Blackswan