Vani S. Kulkarni

Vani S. Kulkarni is a Lecturer on sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and Senior Fellow in Urban Ethnography Project in sociology at department Yale University. She holds a PhD with distinction from the University of Pennsylvania. She has received prestigious awards and has held prestigious Research Fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, and Yale. She has also been a consultant for the Asian Development Bank and International Fund for Agricultural Development at the United Nations. Her research lies at the intersection of Health (Global and International); Urban Education; Race and Caste; Gender; Identity and Inequality; and Development and Democracy. She has published in the ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and in several peer-reviewed journals, has coauthored two books, and her writings have appeared as encyclopedia entries, policy reports for the United Nations, and as Opinion Editorials. Her current research constitutes of two distinct research streams, in two diverse cultural contexts: health insurance in India and urban education system in the North America. Both projects ethnographically examine the implications of formal, top-down policies in the everyday lives of people who are embedded in it. She has taught/teaches courses on Social Theory, Gender, Global Health, Social Capital, Democracy and Race and Ethnicity at the University of Pennsylvania, Yale and at Harvard.

On the Dr. Malathy Singh Visiting Fellowship at Yale University:

I am a sociologist by training with research interests in development issues such as, Health and healthcare, Social Inequality, Poverty alleviation, and decentralized governance in South Asia. Although my own disciplinary expertise has been useful for exploring the nuances of various development areas and policies associated with them, one can do justice to the richness of the field of development studies by familiarizing and adopting different disciplines and perspectives to investigate these different areas, their interactions, and policy implications. As I look back on the time I spent as a Malathy Singh Visiting Fellow in South Asia Studies Council, I feel very fortunate to have had the coveted opportunity to enhance my research, teaching and a range of professional services through an interdisciplinary perspective on development.

Research. The fellowship enabled me to interact with faculty and students who were engaged in development research projects and questions that I was interested in but from distinct perspectives including economics, anthropology and political science. The seminar presentations, conferences, and scholars, including visiting scholars and students that I met as a Singh Fellow helped me broaden my lens on development matters and subsequently strengthened my interest in the subject of development studies.  The various collaborative projects that I was able to be a part of and subsequent publications that emerged out of these collaborative researches broadened my vision and scholarship. In addition to research, the Singh fellowship enriched my teaching experience. One, I got the invaluable opportunity to offer courses on a very important and rapidly-growing field viz., public health and healthcare inequality in India. Two, these courses motivated me to understand the field of health, healthcare development, and healthcare policy beyond the sociological lens and incorporate other perspectives not just as alternative frameworks but as complementary ones. I believe this helped students to gain a holistic standpoint on health and healthcare as one of the key human development indicators. Finally, as a Singh fellow I was privileged to engage in academic-professional service activity viz., organize seminar on the subject of my interest – exploring the promises and predicaments of Public Health in India. The seminar brought together eminent scholars working in the area of public health with important contributions to conceptual, empirical and policy perspectives on the subject.

In conclusion, the research, teaching and service experience that I gained as a Singh fellow has helped me approach the field of development through not as a multidisciplinary field per se but as an interdisciplinary one.  The value of the latter is reflected in its wider recognition. For this reason alone, if I am allowed to choose one, I feel deeply honoured for the award of the Malathy Singh Visiting Fellowship at Yale.