Dr. Michael Collins

Michael Collins received his doctorate in South Asia Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. His dissertation, “Recalling Democracy: Electoral Politics, Minority Representation, and Dalit Assertion in Modern India,” provides an ethnographic study of Dalit (ex-untouchable) politics, chronicling the democratic transition of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (Liberation Panthers Party; VCK) from social militancy into electoral politics. His research bridges the disciplines of history, anthropology, and political science to engage with theories of democracy, representation, and political practice in modern South Asia. His most recent work provides an ethnographic study of how election finance norms affect the democratic participation and political representation of social minorities in modern India.

Teaching and Research Interests

Anthropology of Politics and Social Inequality
Anthropology of Democracy, Elections, and Voting
Social Movements and Dalit Politics in India
Theories of Political Representation
History of Modern South Asia


Michael Collins, “Navigating Fiscal Constraints: Dalit Parties and Electoral Politics in Tamil Nadu, India,” in Milan Vaishnav and Devesh Kapur, eds., The Costs of Democracy: Political Finance in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, forthcoming [2018].

Michael Collins, “Writing Dalit Assertion: Early Dalit Panther Politics and Rights Advocacy in Tamil Nadu, India,” in Hugo Gorringe, Surinder Jodhka, and Opinderjit Thakar, eds.Caste: Contemporary Dynamics in South Asia and Beyond. Special issue of Journal of Contemporary South Asia 25, no. 3 (2017): 238-254.

Michael Collins, “Money power in Indian elections,” Op-Ed inThe Hindu: Business Line, July 29, 2014. For the full article, see: Michael Collins, “Cash, Candidates, and Campaigns,” in India in Transition, online

Translation of Telugu poetry with Afsar Mohammad in Gita Ramaswamy, K. Purushotham and Gogu Shyamala (eds.), The Oxford India Anthology of Telugu Dalit Writing. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016.