Mitul Baruah

Mitul Baruah

Mitul Baruah

Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and
Environmental Studies, Ashoka University

Ph.D. Syracuse University

I am an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Ashoka University, where I have been teaching since 2016. My research explores the intersection between environmental governance, rural livelihoods, and everyday life and politics in rural India. An interdisciplinary scholar, I approach human-environment relations largely from a political ecology perspective. The specific areas of my interest include water governance, water justice, rivers and river islands, hazards and disasters, agrarian studies, island studies, the politics of climate change, and the state.

I completed my PhD in Geography with Distinction from Syracuse University in 2016, where I was also awarded the Geography Department’s Best Dissertation Award for that year. My dissertation committee comprised of Farhana Sultana (advisor), Tom Perreault, Don Mitchell, Tod Ruherford, Sue Wadley, and Sanjib Baruah. Prior to this, I had obtained an MS in Environmental Studies from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York (SUNY-ESF), where I was a Ford Foundation International Fellow.

I have a master’s in Social Work (MSW) from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, with a specialization in Urban and Rural Community Development. While a student at TISS, I did fieldwork for a year with an independent trade union called the Kachra Vahatuk Shramik Sangh (KVSS) that worked with sanitation workers in Mumbai with a membership base of over 4500 workers. Founded in 1996, KVSS worked towards bringing together unorganized workers on a common platform by addressing issues of persecution and harassment of laborers, non-payment of minimum wages, denial of compensation, arrears and pension, and equal wages.

My first encounter with urban India was Delhi. In 1996, I left my remote village in Majuli, a river island in the middle of the Brahmaputra River in Assam, and enrolled myself in the undergraduate program at Ramjas College, Delhi University. I remain forever grateful to the History Department at Ramjas for introducing me to the world of scholarship and shaping my political consciousness.  

At Ashoka University, I have been the Head of the Department (HoD), Environmental Studies; Seminar Coordinator, Environmental Studies; and Undergraduate Coordinator, Sociology and Anthropology.  

Between 2002 and 2008, I worked at the grassroots with an environmental NGO called the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) in Udaipur, Rajasthan. We worked in over a hundred villages in and around Udaipur on issues of community-based natural resources governance and sustainable rural livelihoods, with a special focus on common property resources (CPRs). As a Team Leader at FES, I was responsible for, among others, supervising a multidisciplinary team of development professionals, scientists, and village-based field associates; coordinating several large projects, funded by national and international donors, and the Indian government; and facilitating community mobilization processes at the village level.