Vani S. Kulkarni
Postdoctoral Associate, Yale Urban Ethnography Project
Office: 204 Prospect Street, Room 101, New Haven, CT
Vani S. Kulkarni is a postdoctoral associate at the Urban Ethnohraphy Project at Yale University. She received her BA, MA and M. Phil from the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, and PhD (with distinction) in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006. Her dissertation, titled Health, Culture, and Democracy: The Case of Decentralization of Healthcare in India, is a sociological exploration of India’s simultaneous pursuit of development and participatory democracy in the early 1990s to 2005.
Her research interest/specialization lies at the intersection of health, democratic-decentralized governance system, culture, development, gender and social theory. Her research is currently mainly centered in South Asia where she has carried out extensive ethnographic field research. Her methodological expertise includes ethnographic field-research, and qualitative analysis. She also possesses strong communication skills in several languages viz. English, Hindi, Kannada Marathi, and Sanskrit.
The conceptual and empirical focus of most of her research so far has included (a) exploring the linkages between larger structural conditions (macro) and personal milieu (micro forces); and (b) investigating the cultural processes, socio-ethical dimension, and latent forces related to the social phenomena under investigation.
She has published in scholarly journals and books such as, Journal of International Affairs and Journal of Asian and African Studies. Most of these have strong comparative development and institutional focus. Her most recent publications include a piece on common interests groups (Contemporary South Asia, 2006) and a book review (forthcoming) in International Sociology journal. A state-of-art review of the methodology of poverty research and design of anti-poverty policies is under preparation. In addition, she is engaged in turning chapters of her dissertation (How women participate in locally elected bodies in rural India? (2) Why community participation in healthcare development is low in India?) into journal articles. These explore the meaning and practice of participation in health care and developmental activities in the context of decentralization ethnographically.
She is currently engaged in two projects. The first one is concerned with exploring the gender gap in self-reported health across various countries using world health statistics survey. The second one broadly relates to the acute distress of farmers resulting in a sharp rise in suicides in two Indian states. As this raises not just deep methodological questions about why acute economic distress causes suicides in some contexts - for example, does it vary by caste and the ‘moral economy’ of peasant communities - but, more importantly, whether the suicide rate has risen as a direct consequence of commercialization of agriculture? A point of departure of this project is that conventional economic analyses are unavoidably narrow in their focus as they overlook the cultural and ethical dimensions.
She has taught several courses at the University of Pennsylvania including, Sociology of medicine, Women and Health in South Asia and introductory level course in sociology.