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Lisa Mitchell

Associate Professor

Office: 801 Williams Hall (820 Williams Hall for mail)
Office Hours: Fall 2018 - Thurs. 1:00-3:00, or by appointment
Phone: 215-898-6047
Fax: 215-573-2138


Ph.D. (with distinction), Columbia University
M.Phil., Columbia University
M.A. (with distinction), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
B.A., Oberlin College


Lisa Mitchell is an anthropologist and historian of southern India.  Her interdisciplinary research and teaching interests include political practice, public space, and the built environment; the cultural history of cement in South Asia; ethnography of informal urban credit networks; technology and infrastructure as they impact social, cultural, and political forms and everyday practices; neoliberalism and economic corridors; ethnographic approaches to the state; colonialism; and Telugu language and literature.

Research Interests

Lisa Mitchell's current research interests include public space and political protest in the history and everyday practice of Indian democracy; the street and the railway station as public space; the city in South Asia; and commodities in transnational history.  She is currently finishing a book entitled Hailing the State: Collective Assembly, Space, and the Politics of Recognition in the History of Indian Democracy.  She has also recently begun a new book project documenting a cultural history of cement in India, provisionally titled, Three Bags of Cement: Concrete Dreams in the New India, which also examines informal urban credit networks.  Her earlier research traced the rise and fall of language as a new foundational category for the reorganization of literary production, history-writing, pedagogical practices, and assertions of socio-political identity in southern India.  Her book, Language, Emotion, and Politics in South India: The Making of a Mother Tongue (Indiana University Press, 2009 and Permanent Black, 2010), was a recipient of the American Institute of Indian Studies' Edward Cameron Dimock, Jr. Prize in the Indian Humanities.  

Selected Publications

2014. “The Visual Turn in Political Anthropology and the Mediation of Political Practice in Contemporary India,” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 37(3): 515-540.

2013.  Translation of Challapalli Swaroopa Rani, “Caste Domination, Male Domination,” in K. Satyanarayana & Susie Tharu, eds.,Steel Nibs Are Sprouting: New Dalit Writing From South India, Dossier 2: Kannada and Telugu, Harper Collins (translated from Telugu). 

2011.  “‘To Stop Train Pull Chain’:  Writing Histories of Contemporary Political Practice,” Indian Economic and Social History Review, Vol. 48, No. 4: 469-495.

2010.  Language, Emotion, and Politics in South India: The Making of a Mother Tongue, Delhi: Permanent Black.

2009.  Language, Emotion, and Politics in South India: The Making of a Mother Tongue, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.  Recipient of the Edward Cameron Dimock, Jr. Prize in the Indian Humanities, American Institute of Indian Studies.

2009.  “Knowing the Deccan:  Enquires, Points, and Poets in the Construction of Knowledge and Power in Early Nineteenth-Century Southern India,” The Madras School of Orientalism, Thomas R. Trautmann, ed., Delhi: Oxford University Press, 151-182.

2009.  “Knowledge at the Edge of Empire:  Experiencing Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge,” Fringes of Empire, Elizabeth Kolsky & Sameetah Agha, eds., Delhi: Oxford University Press, 236-256.

2006.  “Making the Local Foreign: Shared Language and History in Southern India,” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Vol. 16, No. 2: 229-248.

2005.  “Parallel Languages, Parallel Cultures:  Language as the Foundation for the Reorganization of Knowledge and Practice in Nineteenth Century Southern India,” Indian Economic and Social History Review, Vol. 42, No. 4: 445-465.

Courses Taught

SAST 002 (ANTH 107/URBS 122) - The City in South Asia

SAST 063 (ANTH 063/HIST 087) - East & West: A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Cultural History of the Modern World

SAST 208 (ANTH 201/SAST 508) - Doing Research

SAST 604 (ANTH 503/URBS 504) - Neoliberalism and the City

SAST 701 (HIST 702/ANTH 711) - Historical Anthropology

SAST 704 (ANTH 706) - State, Society, & Culture in South Asia