Wesleyan portrait of Anu (Aradhana)  Sharma

Anu (Aradhana) Sharma

Associate Professor of Anthropology

Anthropology, 23

Associate Professor, College of the Environment

Associate Professor, Global South Asian Studies

Associate Professor, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Anthropology, 23


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BA Eugene Lang College
MA Columbia University
MA Stanford University
PHD Stanford University

Anu (Aradhana) Sharma

A political anthropologist interested in the state, democratic governance, citizenship, social movements, NGOs, gender, and activism, Professor Sharma has conducted extensive fieldwork in India. From women's empowerment programs intended to transform gender relations to transparency and anticorruption legislation that enables people to question the state, Sharma studies the social life, dynamics, and impact of initiatives that seek to "empower" citizens. These empowerment initiatives function as spaces of encounter, bringing together social movement activists, NGOs, ordinary citizens, and state officials in complex negotiations with each other; they are the key actors in Sharma's work.

In a 2015 collaborative article published in the American Ethnologist, Sharma describes the "technomoral politics" of NGO, movement, and state actors on the issue of corruption, as they struggle to claim moral authority and political legitimacy as the keepers of public interest and democratic values. In a 2014 article on anticorruption politics in India published in South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, she examined the use of “brand Gandhi” by various political and civil society actors, as they fought over an anticorruption law, juxtaposing these contemporary debates about Gandhianism against a history of Gandhi's ethics and activism. Her 2013 article, published in the Political and Legal Anthrpology Review, discusses the social life of India's 2005 Right to Information law, shows how citizens attempt to make the state accountable and how government officials subvert transparency through common bureaucratic means. Sharma has also written about the problematic gendered debates about India's democratic transformation on the popular political blogsite "Kafila": laws and policies that are meant to include and empower all citizens are premised on patriarchal assumptions about citizenship that privilege men and thus have deeply gendered effects. Her first book, Logics of Empowerment: Development, Gender and Governance in Neoliberal India, focused on the paradoxical outcomes of a rural women’s empowerment program started as a partnership between feminist groups and the Indian government. Sharma earned her doctorate and masters from Stanford University in Cultural and Social Anthropology. She also has a master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and an undergraduate degree from The New School for Social Research with specializations in Economics, Politics and Feminist Studies. Sharma has native fluency in Hindi, spoken fluency in Punjabi and Urdu, a working knowledge of Russian (speaking, reading and writing), and basic knowledge of Spanish.

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Spring 2024: Wednesdays, 12:30-2:30 pm, Room 23, Anthropology Department (281 High Street)