I specialize in comparative politics and the political economy of development, with a regional focus on South Asia. My research examines questions of when, why and how governments, nongovernmental agencies and citizens work collectively to address complex societal challenges and promote inclusive development. To investigate these questions, I apply an interdisciplinary lens and field-based research methods (e.g., ethnography, interviews, focus group discussions, surveys and field experiments).

My past and ongoing research spans several topics: state capacity, bureaucratic organization and politics, public institutions, policy implementation processes, local and multi-level governance, social welfare and inequality, as well as the politics and management of education, policing and other public services. Additionally, I have a strong interest in qualitative and multimethod research.

I have conducted extensive fieldwork across Indian geographies and states: the northern Gangetic plains (Uttar Pradesh and Bihar), Himalayan region (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh), national capital region (Delhi and Haryana), northern-central plateau (Madhya Pradesh) and southern coastal region (Karnataka). I often work in collaboration with governments and nongovermental partners. My research has been supported by the World Bank, M.I.T. Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCDO), Oxford-Research England Global Challenges Research Fund, American Institute for Indian Studies and the NSEP David L. Boren Fellowship Program.

My CV is available here.


Making Bureaucracy Work: Norms, Education and Public Service Delivery in Rural India

2022, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Studies in the Comparative Politics of Education Series


The Indian Welfare State

Oxford University Press

[Under contract; manuscript in progress]

Journal Articles

Policing in patriarchy: An experimental evaluation of reforms to improve police responsiveness to women in India
(with Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner and Sandip Sukhtankar)

[Science, 377 (6602): 191-198.]

Social conflict on the front lines of reform: Institutional activism and girls’ education in rural India

Pre-publication PDF

[Public Administration and Development, 2022, 42(1):95-105. Special Issue: Street-Level Bureaucrats]

Media & Commentary: Harvard Mittal Institute 

Bureaucratic Norms and State Capacity in India: Implementing Primary Education in the Himalayan Region

Pre-publication PDF

[Asian Survey, 2015, 55(5): 882-908. Special Issue: State Capacity in South Asia.]

Virtue out of Necessity?: Compliance, Commitment and the Improvement of Labor Conditions in Global Supply Chains
(with Richard Locke and Matthew Amengual)

Pre-publication PDF

[Politics & Society, 2009, 37(3): 319-351.]

Understanding Child Labor in India

[Perspectives on Work, Summer 2009, 13(1):13-16.]

Book Chapters

The Indian Police: Administration, Capacity and Performance (with Vineet Kapoor). Institutional Roots of India’s Foreign and Security Policy, Edited by M. Vaishnav, Oxford University Press, 2024, pp. 245-276.

The Indian Police: Managing Dilemmas of Internal Security. Internal Security in India: Violence, Order and the State, Edited by A. Ahuja and D. Kapur, Oxford University Press, 2023, pp. 240-258.

Papers in Progress

  • Embedded Translation: Local NGOs and Community Mobilization for Child Rights in Rural India (with Thomas Lawrence)
  • Becoming the Police: Female Officers, Relational Work and the Pursuit of Inclusion in India
  • State Capacity and Organization Studies (with Devarchan Banerjee)
  • Engendering Policing: Activating State Capacity for Women’s Security (with Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner and Sandip Sukhtankar)
  • Bureaucracy (Chapter in progress for Cambridge Companion to Indian Politics and Society, eds. Indrajit Roy and Manali Desai)

Other Publications

Review of: Informal Labor, Formal Politics, and Dignified Discontent in India, by Rina Agarwala, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 67 (4), October 2014.

Preventing Child Labour in the U.P. Carpet Belt, Case Studies of Development in Practice, New Delhi: UNICEF India, 2007 (with Diksha Gupta and Afsoon Houshidari). [PDF]