Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu

Malini Ranganathan

Assistant Professor School of International Service

Dr Ranganathan is a critical geographer with a special interest in postcolonial cities. She is a 2017-2019 American Council of Learned Societies-Andrew W. Mellon Foundation collaborative grant recipient. Her scholarship is concerned broadly with the political economy of the urban environment and sits at the intersection of human and urban geography, cultural anthropology, and critical development studies. Most of her research to date has focused on water and land governance in Bangalore/Bengaluru in India. Through ethnographic and archival research here, she argues that new water pricing policy is central to struggles over the right to tenure security given widespread urban informality. A related project delves into the political economy of wetland redevelopment, showing how Bangalore’s wetlands have become sites for land grabbing, accumulation, and state-corporate corruption. The resulting heightened flood risk has fueled demands for a more democratic city. Finally, she brings insights from postcolonial cities to bear on urban space and inequality in the US. To that end, she has just launched a newly funded project, “Tackling Urban Vulnerability: Lessons for Building Community Resilience and Climate Justice in Washington, DC”, which aims to document and address the racial inequities and ecological risks faced by communities near the Anacostia.

Her research is published or forthcoming in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Capitalism Nature Socialism International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Geography, Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography, and Water Alternatives among other journals, as well as several edited books on the South Asian city. Previously, Dr Ranganathan was a post-doctoral fellow based out of the Department of Geography at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has also worked at TERI, New Delhi; ENDA-Tiers Monde, Dakar; and the Asian Development Bank, Manila. At SIS, Dr Ranganathan teaches SISU 250 (Environmental Sustainability and Global Health), SISU 349 (Global Cities, Justice, and the Environment), and SIS 620 (Urban Political Ecology).


PhD, University of California, Berkeley

MS, University of California, Berkeley

BA, Bard College, NY

Favorite Spot on Campus
My sunny office, SIS 301, and the Woods-Brown Amphitheater @ AU!
Languages Spoken
French (fluent)

Download CV (PDF)

SIS-School of Intl Service
SIS - 301
Wed 2-4pm & Thurs 430-530pm. Please sign up here:
Contact Info
(202) 885-6901 (Office)

Send email to Malini Ranganathan

For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.
See Also
Dr Ranganathan's academic website
Dr Ranganathan's Google Scholar profile
Follow Dr Ranganathan on Twitter

Partnerships & Affiliations

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

Political economy of development, urban inequality and environmental justice, postcolonial theory, critical race theory, discourse analysis, ethnography, history

Grants and Sponsored Research

  • 2017-2019. American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)-Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Collaborative Research Grant "Corruption Plots, Imagined Publics: The Ethics of Space in the Millenial City" (with Sapana Doshi and David Pike).
  • 2016-2017. Faculty Research Support Grant "Urban Revolution? Anti-Corruption and Environmental Justice in India".
  • 2015-2016. Metropolitan Policy Center Faculty Research Grant "Tackling Urban Vulnerability: Lessons for Building Community Resilience and Climate Justice in Washington, DC" (with Eve Bratman).
  • 2007-2009. National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, Geography and Spatial Sciences Program, Directorate of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences: "Seeing Like a Citizen: Technologies of Governance and Urban Service Delivery in Bangalore".

Professional Presentations

Recent Invited Talks

  • 2016. "Water, Property, and the Politics of Urban Belonging". Invited to speak at Earth Day Symposium on Water and Class Struggle, State University of New York, Purchase College, April 22, 2016.
  • 2016. "Race, Class, and the Legacies of Colonial Urban ‘Improvement’". Invited to speak at Symposium on Critical Approaches to Race, Class, and Gender, American University, February 24, 2016.
  • 2015. "The Performativity of Urban Anti-Corruption Politics". Invited to speak at Rupturing the Anthro-obscene! The Political Promises of Planetary Urban Ecologies workshop, KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Sweden, September 16-18.
  • 2015. "Registering Agency". Invited to speak at Urban Beyond Measure: Registering Urban Environments in the Global South, Stanford University, May 8-9. For a summary of the conference by researchers at Yale University see here.
  • 2014. “Drains of Labor: Filth, Commodification, and Risk in Bangalore’s Wetland Assemblage”. Invited to speak at Infrastructures of Labor panel, New York University.
  • 2014. “Emancipatory Urban Politics Through the Everyday Sate: Improvisations and Translations at the Frontlines”. Invited to speak at Radical Incrementalism: Theories/Practices of Emancipatory Change, African Center for Cities, University of Cape Town.
  • 2014. “Stormwater Drains, (Wet)land Grabs, and the Assembling of Flood Risk in Bangalore”. Invited to speak at the School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute for Social Sciences, Mumbai.
  • 2014. “Beyond the ‘Slum’: Urban Informality as the New Normal in Millennial Capitalism“. Invited to speak at Cities at the Center of the World conference, George Mason University and Woodrow Wilson Center.
  • 2013. “Stormwater Drains as Assemblages: The Geography of Flooding in Bangalore”. Invited to speak at The Future of Water and Waste in South Asia conference, Rutgers University.
  • 2012. “Financing Infrastructure in India’s Slums: Rajeev Gandhi Awas Yojana’s Prospects and the Political Economy of Urban Reforms”. Invited to speak at The 21st Century Indian City: Working Towards Being Slum Free? conference, University of California, Berkeley
  • 2011. “Informal Water, the State, and the Peripheralized Middle Class”, Invited to speak at Urban India: Historical Processes and Contemporary Experiences conference, Yale University.

 Recent Conference Presentations and Panels

  • 2015. "Contesting Wetland Grabs: The Politics of 'Elite' Informality and Anti-Corruption Discourse in Bangalore" at the Madison Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison, October 22-23.
  • 2015. “Conjuring Land from Water: Law, Materiality, and Discursive Politics in Urban Wetland Redevelopment” at Land Fictions: The Commodification of Land in City and Country conference, Rutgers University, May 1-2.
  • 2015. "Storm Flows and Capital Fixes: Rematerializing Flood Risk in the Informal City" at session on STS and Urban Infrastructure in the South, Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Chicago, April 21-25.
  • 2014. “The Ethical City? Critical Geographies of Corruption and Accountability in Urban India”. Panel co-organizer and co-presenter (with Sapana Doshi) at session on Critical Geographies of Corruption and Accountability, Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Tampa, April 8-12.
  • 2014. “Pluralizing ‘the State’ in Urban Political Ecology: State Formation and Water Politics in Bangalore, India”, Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference, University of Kentucky, Lexington, February 27-29.




Selected Publications


Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • 2011-2013. Post-Doctoral Fellow, Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy (SDEP), Department of Geography and Beckman Institute, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
  • 2009-2010. Chancellor’s Dissertation-Year Fellowship in the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 2007-2008. John L. Simpson Memorial Research Fellowship in International and Comparative Studies, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 2007-2008. American Institute of Indian Studies (headquartered at the University of Chicago) Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.
  • 2006. Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 2006. Center for South Asian Studies Summer Research Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 2005. Center for Human Rights Summer Research Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley.

Media Appearances

Professional Services

  • Peer reviewer for Geoforum, Antipode, Environment and Planning: A, & Urban Geography
  • 2016-present. Editorial Board Member, Annals of the American Association of Geographers (People, Place, & Region section)
  • 2015-present. Editorial Board Member, Geography Compass (Urban Section).
  • 2015-2017. Board Member, Urban Geography Specialty Group (UGSG), American Association of Geographers (AAG)
  • 2015-2017. At-Large Councilor, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group (CAPE), American Association of Geographers (AAG)