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Navtej K Purewal

Professor of Political Sociology and Development Studies, SOAS University of London, SOAS, University of London

I am Professor of Political sociology and Development Studies at SOAS University of London. In 2019 I was Visiting Chair in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney, Australia. Before joining Development Studies at SOAS, I was Deputy Director of the SOAS South Asia Institute. Prior to that I was a Lecturer in Sociology and Development Studies at the University of Manchester.

All of my research has in some way been concerned with the dialectical relationship between the political and the social, with an interest in structures, policies and institutions which shape the field of ‘development’.

I have an interdisciplinary academic background, with a BA in Political Science from Vassar College, an MA in South Asia Area Studies from SOAS, and a PhD in Development Studies from Lancaster. I have done extensive field research in India and Pakistan, as well as the UK, in a number of research areas including gender and reproductive politics, religion and bordering processes in South Asia, structural violence, girls’ education, and neoliberal ‘development’ and governmentality.

My recent book Beyond Religion in India and Pakistan: Gender and Caste, Borders and Boundaries (Bloomsbury, 2019) outlines an approach to understanding social and political forms of hegemony in terms of how resistance and transgression are framed through subalternity. By focusing on the region of Punjab spanning India and Pakistan, the book highlights how gender and caste are not only the social structures through which patriarchy, caste ideology, feudalism, and majoritarianism are permeated, but they also inform how new forms and mobilisations of resistance are being shaped by women, Dalits and other subaltern voices.

I am committed to feminist, non-Eurocentric, decolonial praxis in teaching and research and am a member of the Feminist Review editorial collective. I am inclined to view ‘development’ as an assemblage of colossal histories of imperialism, inheritances of institutions complicit in perpetuating hegemonies, ongoing violences and inequalities, and skewed global power relations. I view Development Studies from this vantage point and still believe that critical development studies can be introspective while still work towards addressing systemic injustices through new visions, insights and strategies.

I am the convenor of the online MSc International Development programme, convene the on-campus module Contemporary India, co-convene the on-campus module Gender and Development, and teach on a number of on-campus Development Studies modules at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. In my ongoing support of area studies at SOAS in emphasising the importance of regional expertise and fluency, I have also contributed to the teaching of Punjabi language in the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics on a voluntary basis.


  • –present
    Reader in Political Sociology and Development Studies, SOAS, University of London