Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Aarti Sethi

College Fellow - Social Anthropology at Harvard University
Postdoctoral Fellow in International and Public Affairs, 2017-2019

Profile

Aarti Sethi is an anthropologist who works on the economic and social life of debt in rural India. Her current book project examines farmer suicides in Vidharba, central India, to argue that the destructive psycho-social force of transgenic cotton cultivation in peasant communities emerges from the financialization of social obligation. With the large-scale adoption of hybrid cotton-seeds, monetary debt now travels through networks of kin, clan and caste reciprocity, transforming customary understandings of status, honor and mutuality in village societies. She is also currently working on a project called 'The Crops of Capital' that examines the centrality of agrarian transformation and agriculture not as vestigial but as central to the emergence of modern industrial capitalisms. Sethi has published and has ongoing interests in south Asian visual and media cultures, urban history, particularly cinema and circuits of spectatorship.

Sethi earned her PhD from Columbia University and holds an MA in Political Science from the University of Delhi and an MPhil in Cinema and Cultural Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is a founding member of kafila.online and on the editorial board of New Text, a copyleft academic publishing house based in New Delhi.