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  • Global Development
  • Department of Global Development

Seminar in Critical Development Studies hosted by Cornell Global Development, the Polson Institute for Global Development, the Department of City and Regional Planning, and the Graduate Field of Development Studies


The millennial city of the global South is a charged setting for allegations of corruption, with skyscrapers, land grabs, and slum evictions invoking outrage at deepening economic polarization. This talk, based on a newly published book Corruption Plots: Stories, Ethics, and Publics of the Late Capitalist City, rethinks commonsense notions that equate corruption with bribery. It illuminates instead how corruption is fundamental to a global storytelling practice about how states and elites abuse entrusted power both inside and outside the law. Drawing on ethnography in Bengaluru and Mumbai and a cross-section of literary and cinematic stories of corruption from cities around the world, Malini Ranganathan and coauthors David L. Pike and Sapana Doshi pay close attention to the racial, caste, class, and gender location of the narrators, spaces, and publics imagined to be harmed by corruption. Corruption Plots demonstrates how, in this moment of late capitalism and rightwing populism, corruption talk is leveraged to make sense of the unequal stakes of rapid urban change; it is equally used opportunistically by those who are themselves implicated in wrongdoing. Offering a wide-ranging analysis of urban worlds, the authors reveal the ethical, spatial, and political stakes of storytelling and how vital it is to examine the “corruption plot” in all its contradictions.

About the speaker: 

Malini Ranganathan is Associate Professor in the School of International Service and a faculty affiliate of the Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies at American University. An urban geographer and political ecologist by training, her research in India and the U.S. studies land, labor, and environmental injustices animating urban social movements, as well as global histories of anticaste, abolitionist, and anticolonial thought. Her coauthored book, Corruption Plots: Stories, Ethics and Publics of the Late Capitalist City, will be out with Cornell University Press in April 2023. She is co-editor of Rethinking Difference in India through Racialization and has authored several journal articles, including in the journals Antipode, Ethnic and Racial Studies, and the Annals of the American Association of Geographers. Dr. Ranganathan is a 2017-2019 recipient of an Andrew Mellon-American Council of Learned Societies fellowship and a 2021 faculty awardee for outstanding contributions to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at American University.

Date & Time

April 28, 2023
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Malini Ranganathan headshot

More information about this event.

Contact Information

Jenna LaMendola

  • JLaMendola [at]


Department of Global Development

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