Projects and members – University of Copenhagen

Emerging Worlds > Projects and members

Projects and members

Ravinder Kaur, Associate Professor, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
Ravinder Kaur is the Primary Investigator of the ‘Emerging Worlds’ project. She is Associate Professor of Modern South Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen where she also directs the Centre of Global South Asian Studies. She holds a Visiting Professorship at the Centre of India Studies in Africa, Witswatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa. 

Kaur works across the disciplines of history, anthropology and international politics. She is currently engaged in two long-term research projects. The first focuses on post-reform India’s transition into an attractive ‘emerging market’ in the global political economy, and second, explores the yet unfolding connections between Asia and Africa via a study of new business connections between India, China and Ghana.

Her previous research focused on the questions of forced migration, refugee resettlement, social class and caste and the making of modern citizenship during India’s Partition in 1947.  

She is the author of Since 1947: Partition Narratives among Punjabi Migrants of Delhi (Oxford, 2007), editor of Religion, Violence and Political Mobilization in South Asia (Sage, 2005), and co-editor of ‘Governing Difference: Identity, Inequity and Inequality in India and China’, Special Issue, Third World Quarterly (2012). Her most recent publication is a special issue of Identities entitled ‘Aesthetics of Arrival: Spectacle, Capital and Novelty in post-reform India’ co-edited with Thomas Blom Hansen (2015).  

Rune Christopher Dragsdahl, PhD Fellow, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl has a M.Sc. in Anthropology from University of Copenhagen which includes studies in economics and food security. His main interests are social, cultural and political aspects of food security and environmental sustainability with a particular interest in India, both India domestically and the role of India in the world.

His Master’s thesis focused on the food consumption of youth in Bangalore, India. Has previously worked as Assistant Lecturer in core courses in anthropology at Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and as External Lecturer in food systems at Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS), Copenhagen, Denmark. Also has previous work experience from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Title: Indian Pulses in Africa
Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl, PhD Fellow

Abstract: This project is a fieldwork-based exploration of Indian entrepreneurs engaged in the lease of land for growing pulses and Indian traders engaged in the trade of pulses in Mozambique and Ethiopia. The aim of the project is to understand the emerging South-South connections being created through pulses. Ethnographic fieldwork will take place for 10 months among all those who are involved in the production and trade of pulses: Indian investors, traders and technical staff working at farms, local farm workers, local smallholder farmers, government officials, politicians and relevant organizations. The project will follow the pulses, in all senses of the word.

Bani Gill, PhD Fellow, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
Bani Gill has a M.A. in Modern History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and a M.A. in the Erasmus Mundus Migration and Intercultural Relations program jointly taught by University of Oldenburg, University of Stavanger and Makerere University Kampala. Her areas of interest are international migration and refugee studies, conflict, gender and transitional justice with a special focus on South Asia and East Africa. Bani is on the Executive Board of the Emerging Scholars and Practitioners on Migration Issues (ESPMI) Network and handles managing editor duties for Refugee Review, a peer edited, open access journal. She has previously worked with Aman Trust (India), Refugee Law Project (Uganda) and the South Asia Forum for Human Rights (India).

Title: South-South Mobilities: An ethnographic exploration of African migrants in contemporary Delhi
Bani Gill, PhD Fellow

Abstract: Extensive focus on South-North movements in migration literature has tended to obfuscate how half the world’s migration occurs between developing countries located in the global South (OECD 2013). India is a quintessential case study in this regard, as a traditionally recognized ‘immigrant sending’ country that has also continued to host a large population of ‘foreigners’, migrants and asylum seekers within its territory.

It is in this context that the present PhD project aims to explore the unfolding trend of migration within the Global South by focusing on migration from the Africa continent to India. Through grounded ethnographic fieldwork in Delhi city – where a significant migrant population from different parts of Africa has settled in the past decade – the project seeks to show how livelihood strategies, opportunities and asylum are increasingly being sought in Southern locations, and how racial tensions, xenophobic discourses, and everyday conflicts shape this new South-South interaction.

Using global ethnography as an approach, this PhD research contributes to literature on immigrant integration in countries of the South, and the often paradoxical conditions of this engagement.  If these conflicts and controversies allow us to move beyond the decolonization movement, they also augur the future of South-South connections in the 21st century.


Luisa Steur, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology
Luisa Steur is assistant professor at the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen. She has a PhD in Sociology and Social Anthropology from the Central European University in Budapest and as a post-doctoral researcher she has been part of the “Caste out of development” project at SOAS London.

In the past ten years, her research has focused on dalit and adivasi mobilization and the politics of development in India and in particular in Kerala. Recently, she has done half a year of fieldwork in Cuba on the emergence of black/ anti-racist activism and the extent to which black identity becomes an anchor for claims making amongst workers who see themselves marginalized from the more dynamic sectors of Cuba’s new economy.

Understanding global-local processes of change and how they relate to political shifts is one of her overriding interests. Her recent publications include “An “expanded” class perspective:  Bringing capitalism down to earth in the changing political lives of Adivasi workers in Kerala” (2015) in Modern Asia Studies 48 (5) and “Theorizing Thervoy: Subaltern Studies and Dalit praxis in India’s land wars” (2015) in New subaltern politics, ed. Alf Nilsen and Srila Roy. Oxford UP.

Title: Rolling out the “red” carpet: Cuba-Kerala exchanges
Luisa Steur, Assistant Professor

Abstract: The South Indian state of Kerala and the island nation of Cuba stand out among a small group of regions in the Global South where historical patterns of inequality and deprivation have been radically transformed in the post-WWII era through a socialist vision of development. In both cases, the legacy of this is, amongst others, a highly educated population and an extensive network of health services. In both cases, however, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the establishment of a new neoliberal world order have created major economic and social challenges.

In their reluctance to compete in the race of offering the lowest possible wages to attract capital, both Cuba and Kerala have turned to sectors allowing a somewhat better, if uneasy, compromise with the pressures of a late capitalist world system. Marketing their territories’ and peoples’ unique qualities to attract tourism has been one strategy. Another has been to build on the advances in their health care systems by investing in bio-medical technology. And with the collapse of the Soviet Union, South-South cooperation with other socialist states (esp. with Vietnam and China) has become more prominent in the technical and material development of these sectors. Indeed, we have recently even seen initiatives linking Cuba and Kerala more directly as expert teams from both states have discovered their “immense possibilities for cooperation”.

Hence in 2007, for instance, a major comparative study of “human development” in Cuba and Kerala (funded by the Canadian SSHRC) was initiated with Joseph Taramangalam as its principal investigator. And beyond academic exchange, in 2008, expertise from the Cuban Public Health Ministry was called upon in discussing plans for a grand “medicity” in Kerala while in 2009 one of Cuba’s most prestigious state firms, Labiofam, offered its expertise in battling the dengue epidemics that both states suffer from. Both late socialist states have moreover started exchanging expertise on the development of medical tourism, which seems a logical combination of Cuba and Kerala’s shared comparative advantages in tourism and health services.

This research project aims to discover the ways in which contemporary exchanges between Cuba and Kerala come about and what sustains (or undermines) these exchanges. In doing so, moreover, it provides an original vantage point from which to more accurately capture the characteristics and contradictions of Cuba and Kerala’s late socialist development paths through a late capitalist world.