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Raja Swamy

Assistant Professor


Raja Swamy is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Presently working on a book based on his dissertation research, Swamy investigates the impact of the 2004 Tsunami on economic development priorities in India’s Tamil Nadu state. Exploring the contradictory outcomes of humanitarian agendas subordinated to the demands of a World Bank-financed and state-led reconstruction project, this work attempts to bridge the gap between political ecology and disaster studies by drawing upon rich ethnographic studies of displaced and resistant artisanal fisher communities thriving on the margins of India’s globalizing economy. Swamy’s theoretical engagement with the ambiguous terrain of humanitarian “soft power” draws upon empirical data compiled on coastal land use, the contours of relocation, and the effects of relocation on affected communities. 

More broadly Swamy's research looks into how neoliberal strategies of economic development bring to the fore ongoing struggles over the goals and meanings of development, democracy, citizenship and rights. Swamy has published academic articles and book chapters on heritage tourism development as a disaster reconstruction strategy, the role of NGOs and humanitarianism in disaster reconstruction, and co-authored several reports on the rise of aggressive Hindu nationalism in India, and its implications for secular democracy in India and South Asian immigrant cultural politics in the United States.


  • Ph.D. Social Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin
  • M.A. Cultural Anthropology, Michigan State University


Courses Taught

Neoliberalism and Globalization



Political Anthropology

Theory and Method in Anthropology

Ethnographic Field Methods

Visiting Lecture Series - Violence (Fall 2017)


  • Contact me if you'd like a syllabus for any of the above courses.


  • Swamy, Raja. 2017. “Humanitarianism and Unequal Exchange.” Journal of World-Systems Research 23 (2): 353–71. doi:10.5195/JWSR.2017.681.

  • Swamy, Raja, and Prema Revathi. “Dispossession and Neoliberal Disaster Reconstruction: Activist NGO and Fisher Resistance in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu.” In Against Colonization and Rural Dispossession: Local Resistance in South and East Asia, the Pacific and Africa. Zed Books, 2017.

  • The construction of risk and opportunity in economic development and humanitarian aid agendas, post-tsunami reconstruction. In Tranquebar and Beyond: Across cultural borders in a South Indian village in past and present, E. Fihl, A.R. Venkatachalapathy (Eds.), Orient Blackswan, 2014.

  • Disaster Relief, NGO-led Humanitarianism and the Reconfiguration of Spatial Relations in Tamilnadu. In NGO-ization: Complicity, Contradictions and Prospects, Choudry, A., & Kapoor, D. (Eds.), Zed Books, London, 2013

  • Subaltern Studies. In Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology: An Encyclopedia, McGee, R & Warms, R. (Eds.) SAGE, 2013

  • Post-Tsunami challenges: The fishing community and heritage tourism in Tarangambadi. Review of Development and Change, Vol. XIV, No.1&2, June-December 2009. Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, India.

Contact Information

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