Anthropology of Power Lab

The Anthropology of Power Lab is premised on the idea that research by master’s level students can contribute meaningful results both to social scientific understanding and informed public discourse. The focus of our group is the anthropology of power, an orientation that understands human society as necessarily entailing systems of control. It is this aspect of socio-cultural formations that we seek to understand through our research. Control, also known as domination, relies everywhere on hierarchical institutions. These institutions constitute social structure, which we regard as distinct from and more fundamental than the systems of meaning and value around which most anthropological research revolves today. Our research focuses specifically on family and kinship systems, ethno-racial and caste orders, employment relations, citizenship, welfare and penal regimes, as well the state-based legal institutions on which modern market economies depend: property, contract, debt, and money itself.

Our research is set in modern India, thereby taking advantage of our institutional location within the Centre for Modern Indian Studies. But anthropology is an inherently comparative discipline and our studies of India are conceived not merely as contributing to area-based knowledge but to the comparative study of systems of control that operate in broadly similar ways across social and civilizational divides. Similarly, while our methods and disciplinary focus are strongly anthropological, we believe anthropology is at its best when research questions are formulated in dialogue with related social sciences and history. Again, our institutional location in the interdisciplinary Centre for Modern India Studies is key.

All master’s level researchers in the Anthropology of Power Lab complete a four–module sequence in CeMIS’s Anthropology of Power Study Focus before beginning independent ethnographic research projects, designed in consultation with Dr. Roberts.