Anjana Ramkumar

  • Ph.D. candidate, Development Sociology
  • Hometown: Singapore
  • College attended and degree earned: National University of Singapore - Bachelor of Environmental Studies (Highest Distinction); National University of Singapore - Master of Social Science (Research)
What is your research focus?

I am a nature-society scholar broadly interested in the eco-social dimensions of agriculture. My master’s thesis explored the re-emergence of Traditional Varieties (TV) of rice in the Southern Indian state of Tamilnadu, following their wide-scale displacement with the advent of the Green Revolution five decades ago. For my PhD, I’m interested in using the cultivations of TVs in India as a lens to engage with questions of alternative development, food sovereignty and food cultures. My work draws on and seeks to contribute to the study of Political Ecology, Agrarian Change and More-than-Human Geographies.

What are the big challenges you want to tackle in the world?

I aspire to produce critical scholarship that challenges the narratives of hegemonic developmental discourses by bringing to the forefront the agency of the subaltern in defining and operationalising alternative ways of understanding and interacting with agrarian landscapes. I hope to make a contribution, even if it’s a small one, to the legacy of scholars before me who have used their scholarship to argue for ecologically and socially-just forms of development. At the same time, I also endeavor to support the creation of positive change in my field sites by establishing long-term partnerships with local organizations.

What were you doing before the PhD program?

After obtaining my Bachelor’s degree, I served as an officer in the Climate Change Division of Singapore's Foreign Service.

Tell us a fun fact about you.

I spent a year living in the alpine city of Innsbruck, Austria before my PhD!

What has been the most memorable or impactful experience of your academic or professional career so far?

The three months that I spent doing fieldwork in rural Tamilnadu for my Master’s thesis has been the most memorable experience of my academic journey so far. The fact that my work engages with and draws from the lived and everyday experiences of agrarian communities imbues it with meaning as well as a sense of responsibility to produce scholarship that has impact beyond the academy. I’m extremely touched by the kindness and warmth of my respondents and gratified by the ways in which field encounters carry such a personal dimension to them. A visit to a respondent’s farm is particularly memorable – I was asked to sow the first seeds of the season on his field during my visit, a ceremonial act that is traditionally reserved for the eldest daughter of the house. That experience remains to date one of the most fulfilling and rewarding thus far.

How do you envision your PhD contributing to your career? 

I see my PhD as an opportunity to learn how to think, read and write in the pursuit of producing critical scholarship. I also consider it to be an excellent platform in training me to teach and mentor students.