Mekhala Krishnamurthy is Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Ashoka University. She has trained at Harvard University (A.B. magna cum laude in Social Studies), the University of Cambridge (M.Phil. in Social Anthropology) and at University College London, where she completed her Ph.D. in Anthropology as a UCL Global Excellence Scholar. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), New Delhi and Non-Resident Scholar at the Center for the Advanced Study of India (CASI) at the University of Pennsylvania, where she previously held a Postdoctoral Fellowship. Prior to joining Ashoka, she taught in the Department of Sociology, Shiv Nadar University.
Over the last fifteen years, Mekhala’s research, publications, policy and professional engagements have involved work within and across a range of field sites and subjects, including women’s courts and dispute resolution, community health workers and public health systems, agriculture and agricultural markets, and land, water and livelihood security. This has placed her in a variety of roles at the intersections of and in partnerships between academia, public policy, government, the private sector, and grassroots civil society organisations.
As an anthropologist, Mekhala’s work engages most deeply with classical and contemporary questions animating the anthropology of the state and market. Her doctoral research and book project explores the changing social, economic and political lives and relationships of an agricultural market/mandi in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. As a result of prolonged exposure to mandi life, Mekhala has developed an abiding interest in grappling with the diversity, complexity and dynamism of agricultural markets, regional capitalism and economic life in India. Between 2018-2020, she was the co-Principal Investigator and co-author on a major interdisciplinary, collaborative and comparative research project on agricultural markets, agro-commodity networks and farmers’ incomes in Punjab, Bihar and Odisha.
Mekhala’s other area of longstanding interest and research commitment focuses on the institutional dynamics and everyday life of public systems and bureaucracies, especially on the lived experiences of field administrators, regulators, and frontline functionaries of the Indian state. At CPR, she leads the State Capacity Initiative, a new interdisciplinary research and practice programme to deepen and expand the understanding of the challenges and possibilities of building state capacity and strengthening public institutions in democratic and federal India.