Prof. Dr. Ursula Rao

Director of the Institute of Anthropology

+49 341 97 37 221    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   Office Hours: Monday to Thursday afternoon. Please make an appointment  In charge of individual study counselling


Ursula Rao is an urban anthropologist researching in India. The central focus of her  work is changing power relations in rapidly globalising cities, with regards to three  different topics: (1) the interaction between urban poor and state agencies in a landscape of  shifting ideologies of urbanity and social security; (2) the changing role of news media for shaping urban  politics; (3) The role of religious institutions and ritual performances for  renegotiating social relations. Her current work focusses on e-goverance and biometric technology. Ursula Rao is a member of the research network Law, Organization, Science and Technology (LOST).

Before joining the University of Leipzig Ursula Rao held academic positions at the University of Heidelberg (1999-2002), the University of Halle (2002-2006) and the University of New South Wales, Sydney (2007-2012).


e-Governance, neoliberalism, media and technology, journalism, ritual, India



News as Culture. Journalistic Practices and the Remaking of Indian Leadership Traditions. 2010 (Paperback 2012). Oxford: Berghahn. [Review]

Negotiating the Divine. Temple Religion and Temple Politics in Contemporary Urban India. 2003. Delhi: Manohar.

Kommunalismus in Indien. Eine Darstellung der Wissenschaftlichen Debatte über Hindu Muslim Konflikte. 2003. Halle: Halle Universität. [PDF]


Edited Volumes

Bodies as Evidence. 2018, co-edited with Mark Maguire and Nils Zurawski. Durham and London: Duke University Press. [Introduction]

Current Debates in Anthropology. 2014, Special Issue: Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 139(1).

The Cultural Politics of Disadvantage in South Asia. 2009, co-edited with Assa Doron. Special Issue: Asian Studies Review 33(4).

Celebrating Transgression. As Method and Politics in the Anthropological Study of Culture. 2006, co-edited with John Hutnyk. Oxford: Berghahn.

Kulturelle VerWandlungen. Die Gestaltung sozialer Welten in der Performanz. 2006, Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Im Rausch des Rituals. Gestaltung und Transformation der Wirklichkeit durch körperliche Performanz. 2000, co-edited with Klaus-Peter Köpping. Hamburg: Lit. [Review]


Refereed Articles

'Biometric Bodies, or how to make fingerprinting work in India' 2018. Body and Society, published online 19 June 2018.

Talking back to the state. Citizens' engagement after neoliberal reform in India. 2014 In: Social Anthropologist 22(4): 410-427. (with Jonathan Anjaria).

'Tolerated Encroachment. Resettlement policies and the negotiation of the licit/illicit divide in an Indian metropolis'. 2013. In: Cultural Anthropology 28(4): 760-779.

'Subverting ID from above and below: The uncertain shaping of India's new instrument of e-governance', with Graham Greenleaf. 2013. In: Surveillance & Society, 11(3): 287-300.

'Biometric Marginality. UID and the Shaping of Homeless Identities in the City. 2013. In: Economic and Political Weekly 48: 1-7. [PDF]

'Neoliberalism and the rewriting of the Indian leader’. 2010. In: American Ethnologist 37(4): 713-725.

'Making the Global City. Urban Citizenship on the Margins of Delhi'. 2010. In: Ethnos 74(4): 402-424.

'Caste and the Desire for Belonging'. 2009. In: Asian Studies Review 33(4): 483-499.

'Arbeit am Ruf. Medienstrategien für indische Patrone‘. 2009, In: Sociologus 511: 1-29 [PDF]

‚Ritual als Performanz. Zur Charakterisierung eines paradigmatischen Übergangs’. 2008, In: Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 2008/1: 1-20. [PDF]

How to Prove Divinities? Experiencing and Defending Divine Agency in a Modern Urban Indian Space’. 2001. In: Religion (32)1: 1-11.

Eine Frage des Glaubens. „Illegale“ Tempel und der Kampf um die Gestaltung des urbanen Raums in Indien’. 2000, In: Sociologus 502: 145-174. [PDF]


Book Chapters

‘Empowerment through local news-making. Studying the media-public interface in India’. 2010, In: Elizabeth Bird (Eds.) Anthropology of News and Journalism: Global Perspectives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 100-115.

'Partition in Contemporary Struggles over Religious Spaces in Bhopal’. 2007, In: Smita Tewari Jassal & Eyal Ben-Ari (Eds.), The Partition Motif in Contemporary Conflicts. Delhi: Sage, pp. 297-320.

‘News from the Field. The experience of transgression and the transformation of knowledge during research in an expert-site’. 2005, In: Ursula Rao and John Hutnyk (Eds.): Celebrating Transgression. Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 23-38.

‘Ritual in Society’. 2006, In: Jens Kreinath, Jan Snoek, Michael Stausberg (Eds.): Theorizing Rituals, Vol. I: Issues, Topics, Approaches, Concepts. Leiden: Brill, pp. 143-160.

‘Ritualpolitik. Die (nicht-)Emergenz von sozialer und politischer Autorität durch ritualisierte Performanz’. 2005, In: Erika Fischer-Lichte; Christian Horn; Sandra Umathum & Matthias Warstat (Eds.), Diskurse des Theatralen. Tübingen: Francke, pp. 193-209.

‘Assessing the Past in Search for a Future: The Changing of Caste and the Writing of Caste History in Contemporary Urban India’. 2002, In: Axel Harneit-Sievers (Ed.): A Place in the World. New Local Historiographies from Africa and South Asia. Leiden: Brill, pp. 347-366.

‘Das Spiel von Nähe und Distanz. Werbung um Beziehungen und Meinungen im journalistischen Feld Nordindiens’. 2002, In: Herbert Willems (Ed.), Die Gesellschaft der Werbung: Kontexte und Texte. Produktionen und Rezeptionen. Entwicklungen und Perspektiven. Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag, pp. 265-282.



"Markets of Development. Experiences of Illness and Healing in Urban India". financed by the German Research Council (2014-2016)

“The application and consequences of e-governance for India’s fight against urban poverty”, financed by Australian Research Council (2012-2014)


Other Academic Activities

Member of Advisory Board of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Area Studies – Middle East, Africa, Asia (ZIRS), University of Halle

Book Reviews Editor at South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies


Annette Veit
 Tel + 49 341 97 37 220
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Ursula Rao
 +49 341 97 37 221
Institut für Ethnologie
Schillerstraße 6
04109 Leipzig