Swaminathan Ramanathan

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I am a political scientist with training in ethnographic research methods. My doctoral work analysed the intimate lifeworlds of child workers. My recent research deal with intersections of digital technologies with daily lived experiences. I have authored & edited five books and presented several papers at conferences.


  • digital technology
  • information flows
  • political economy
  • smart cities
  • urban public space


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R. Swaminathan received his doctoral degree from India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). As part of his doctoral work on child labour and new social movements in Global South, he has worked extensively with street children in South Karnataka. He has 20 years of professional experience across various domains in social sector, academia, think tanks and the corporate world.


Books [Forthcoming]

  • [2022/March/Author/Under Review] Notes of a Digital Gypsy: Decoding the Other India, Governance Now & National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI), Delhi

Books [Published]

  • [2008/Author] Small Hands, Big Deeds: New Forms of Labour Mobilisation, Samskriti, Delhi, ISBN: 978-81-87374-52-7
  • [2008/Editor] Gujarat: Perspectives of the Future, Academic Foundation, Delhi, ISBN 13: 9788171885954 ISBN 10: 8171885950
  • [2006/Co-Editor] Mumbai Vision 2015: Agenda for Urban Renewal, Editor, Macmillan India, Delhi, ISBN 13: 978-1403-93128-3 ISBN 10: 1403-93128-3
  • [2005/Co-Editor] Healthcare Issues in Large Federal Countries, Co-editor, Forum of Federations, Canada, ISBN: 81-86818-12-X
  • [2005/Author] Free Power for Farmers: Policy Issues for Maharashtra, Editor, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi

Book Chapters & Peer Reviewed Papers

  • [2021/May/Forthcoming/Author/Chapter] ‘In the city of deals, we store all of God’s good luck with us’ Laxmi: Dealer in emotions’, Bombay Brokers, Bjorkman, Lisa (ed.)Duke University Press: https://www.dukeupress.edu/bombay-brokers
  • [2019/Chapter/Author] ‘From Sustainable Development to Sustainability as Development: Is it Even Possible?’, Former som Formar: Musik Kulturarv, öar, Ingemark, Camilla Asplund, et. al. (eds), Uppsala Universitet, 2019, Uppsala: http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1319127/FULLTEXT02.pdf
  • [2019/Paper/Author] ‘India’s Urban Moment: The Pressing Need for a New Thought Architecture’, Observer Research Foundation, ORF Occasional Paper, 196, June 2019, Delhi: https://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/ORF_Occasional_Paper_196_Urban_Moment.pdf
  • [2019/Paper/Author] ‘Food Sovereignty and Local Agency: Pathways to Urban Sustainability’, Observer Research Foundation, ORF Issue Brief, May 2019, Delhi: https://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/ORF_Issue_Brief_297_Food_Sovereignty.pdf
  • [2019/Paper/Author/Conference/Under Review for Publication] ‘Islands of Faith: Dargahs and Secularisation of Everyday Work and Leisure in Mumbai’, European Academy of Religions Conference, 2019, Bologna [Currently under review for publication by Shima]: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/8f958c_a590f81aebfd4dc485f826f0cb320ab5.pdf.
  • [2018/Paper/Author/Conference/Under Review for Publication] ‘It is worthless for you, but it is gold for us’ From Vulnerability to Sustainability to Resilience: Narratives of Ragpickers in Mumbai’, SANT/FAS Conference, Uppsala, 2018 [Currently under review for publication by Urban Studies]: http://www.sant.engagingvulnerability.se/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/SANT_FAS_Complete_v3.pdf
  • [2018/Paper/Author/Conference] ‘Girlfriends are complicated, my doll never complains’ Digisexuals of Mumbai, The 3rd Asiascape: Digital Asia Conference - Rethinking Communities in the Age of the Digital, Leiden, 2018 [Currently under review for publication by Asiascape Journal]: http://www.politicseastasia.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/DIAS-2018-Programme-version-2018-05-22.pdf
  • [2018/Co-Author/Chapter] ‘Cities and Urbanisation’ The Routledge International Handbook of Island Studies: A World of Islands, Taylor & Francis: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315556642
  • [2017/Paper/Author] ‘The Emergent Artificial Intelligence of Green Space: Digital Gaze and Urban Ecology in Asia, Asiascape, Digital Asia 2, pp. 236-276.
  • [2016/Co-Author] ‘Returning from the Horizon: Introducing Urban Island Studies’, Urban Island Studies, 1(1), pp. 35-54.
  • [2015/Author] ‘Ports and Digital Ports: The Narrative Construction of Mumbai as an Island’, Urban Island Studies, 1(1), pp. 35-54.
  • [2014/Author] ‘The Epistemology of a Sea View: Mindscapes of Space, Power and Value in Mumbai’, Island Studies Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2014, pp. 277-292.
  • [2014/Author] ‘Politics of Technoscapes: Algorithms of Social Inclusion & Exclusion in a Global City’, Journal of International and Global Studies Volume 6, Number 1, pp. 90-105
  • [2014/Unpub.] ‘Digitally Coded Citizenship: Aadhaar and the Changing Spatiality and Territoriality of State in Asia’, 6th International ADI Conference on Intra‐Asian Connections: Interactions, flows, landscapes, University of Copenhagen
  • [2014/Unpub.] ‘Self, Selfhood and a Selfie: The Anatomy of a Digital Body and Virtual Identity’, 6th Global Conference on Gendering Strangers, Aliens and Foreigners, November 2014, Prague
  • [2014/Unpub.] ‘Afterlife as a Metaphor: Narratives of Dead Websites and Outdated Codes’, 11th Global Conference on Making Sense of Suffering, Dying and Death, November 2014, Prague

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My collaborative project focuses on re-imagining urban spaces of the future as societal platforms and social design interfaces. It will do so from five lenses of sustainability, resilience, equity, access and governance. The project aims at providing realistic, practical and solution-oriented thought leadership and knowledge products for a variety of stakeholders ranging from government institutions, global consulting organisations, multilateral agencies and companies to local communities, citizen groups, civil society organisations and, of course, the academic community. The project will employ a pluridisciplinary approach to understand and analyse the flows [global-to-local, local-to-global, glocal-to-local, local-to-glocal, local-to-local] that inform the production of urban spaces [platform thinking] and use design thinking as an overarching framework [synthesis as opposed to pure analysis, divergent thinking as opposed to convergent thinking, focus on "wicked problems", rapid prototyping etc] to reorient existing thought processes and conceptual architecture about cities. In employing this approach, the project hopes to find a fresh ways of 'thinking and doing' about 'future urbanisms'. This project comes out from a clear and felt need of the world, especially India and emerging economies. Reliable estimates have forecast that close to 75 percent of India would be living in cities by 2050. That's a massive shift for a country where currently close to 75 percent are living in rural and semi-urban areas in conditions of extreme marginalisation and vulnerability. It's a similar story for rest of the world, with 70 percent of the world expected to live in some sort of urban enclaves by 2050. The most exciting part for me is that the project is an opportunity to test out my long-held belief that innovative and practical solutions for the future, especially with a focus on people to mitigate their vulnerabilities, require a combination of "learning-by-thinking approach", of academic rigour, intellectual creativity and research mindset and an industry-style "learning-by-doing approach", of rapid prototyping and quick ground testing [fail small & fail fast].


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Swaminathan Ramanathan