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Kalpana K


Associate Professor
Room No.: HSB 332A
Phone : +91 (44) 2257 4520
Email : kkalpana@iitm.ac.in



Academic Background:

  • Ph.D. from the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), Chennai.
  • M.A History, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi
  • B.A Economics, Ethiraj College for Women, Chennai

Research Interests:

  • Gender and development / Women’s studies
  • Microfinance / Self Help Groups (SHGs)
  • Critical analysis of state-sponsored livelihood / poverty alleviation initiatives
  • Models of state-civil society collaboration in service delivery

Teaching Experience:

  • Perspectives in Social Sciences; Decentralization and Governance; Women in India: Problems and Prospects (ongoing courses offered in IIT Madras)
  • State, Civil Society and Service Provision (taught at IFMR, Chennai, 2009)
  • Teaching as guest lecturer at the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) Chennai

Professional / Research Experience:

  • October 2019 – Present: Associate Professor, IIT Madras
  • July 2010 – September 2019: Assistant Professor, IIT Madras
  • September 2008 – June 2010: Senior Researcher at Centre for Development Finance (CDF) of IFMR, Chennai. Experience as team leader of a qualitative study in a pilot village of World Bank-financed and Tamil Nadu government-implemented scheme for social empowerment and poverty reduction. Also involved in conceptualizing and leading qualitative field work in a project to review the design, implementation and impacts of World Bank funded irrigation investments in India.
  • January 2003 – December 2007: Co-investigator of project titled ‘Women’s Technology Park’, Puducherry, implemented by Centre for Ecology and Rural Development (CERD) and supported by Department of Women and Child Welfare and Dept of Science & Technology, GOI.
  • 1998 – 2001: Core Faculty of Centre for Ecology and Rural Development (CERD) & Pondicherry Science Forum (PSF) under Core Grant Scheme of Science & Society Division, Dept of Science & Technology, Govt. of India. During this period, I coordinated a UNICEF supported project to build a trained community-based health activist force in select districts of Tamil Nadu. Also coordinated a state-wide campaign that involved action research studies and public audits of the public health sector and people’s health status in Tamil Nadu.
  • 1997 – 1998: Coordinator of a federation of 1500 Self Help Groups (SHGs) promoted by Tamil Nadu Science Forum in Kanyakumari district. Role included helping to consolidate a financially self-reliant district wide federated structure of SHGs and designing leadership and capacity-building programmes for group coordinators.



  • K. Kalpana (2017) Women, Microfinance and the State in Neo-liberal India, London and New York: Routledge.

Journal Articles/Working Papers:

  • S. Krithi, Kalpana Karunakaran, J Jeyalydia, R Parthesarathy and T Sundararaman (2022)  Discourses around Stigma and Denial in the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study from Tamil Nadu, Economic and Political Weekly, LVII (57) (4):34-39.
  • P. Shabna and K. Kalpana (2021) Re-making the self: Discourses of ideal Islamic womanhood in Kerala, Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, DOI: 10.1080/12259276.2021.2010907
  • K. Kalpana (2019) ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Trade Union Activism: Organising Women Informal Workers in Tamil Nadu, Economic and Political Weekly (Special Article), Vol LIV, No 50, Pp 49 – 56.
  • K. Kalpana (2019) ‘Defending Informal Workers’ Welfare Rights: Trade Union Struggles in Tamil Nadu’, Global Labour Journal, Vol 10, No 3, Pp 209 – 223.
  • P. Aswathy and K. Kalpana (2019) Good Woman, Bad Woman: Social Control and Self-Regulation in Kerala’s Fisheries, in Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol 74, May – June, Pp 196 – 203.
  • P. Aswathy and K. Kalpana (2019) Women’s work, survival strategies and capitalist modernization in South Indian small-scale fisheries: the case of Kerala, in Gender, Technology and Development, Volume 22, Issue 3, Pp 205 – 221.
  • P. Aswathy and K. Kalpana (2018) ‘The ‘Stigma’ of Paid Work: Capital, State, Patriarchy and Women Fish Workers in South India’, Journal of International Women’s Studies, Vol 19, Issue 5, pp 113 – 128.
  • K. Kalpana (2016) ‘Feminizing Responsibility? Women’s ‘Invisible’ Labor and Sub-Contracted Production in South India’ in Journal of International Women’s Studies, Vol 18, Issue 1, pp 33 – 51.
  • K. Kalpana (2015) Economic Entitlements via Entrepreneurial Conduct: Women and Financial Inclusion in Neo-liberal India, Journal of World-Systems Research, Vol 21, No 1, Winter/Spring.
  • K. Kalpana (2011) ‘How Pro-Poor is User-Owned Microfinance? Class, Gender and Group Dynamics in Self Help Groups, South India,’ Indian Journal of Human Development, Vol 5, No 2, July – December.
  • K. Kalpana (2011) ‘Subverting Policy, Surviving Poverty: Women and SGSY in Rural Tamil Nadu’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XLVI, No 43.
  • K. Kalpana (2008) ‘The Vulnerability of ‘Self-Help’: Women and Microfinance in South India,’ IDS Working Paper 303, Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex, UK
  • K. Kalpana (2006) ‘Microcredit wins Nobel: A stocktaking’, Economic and Political Weekly, p 5110 – 5113, 16 December.
  • K. Kalpana (2005) ‘Shifting Trajectories in Microfinance Discourse’, Economic and Political Weekly, p 5400 – 5409, Vol XL, No 51, December 17.
  • K. Kalpana (2004), ‘A Critical Reading of the Anti-Poverty Dimensions of Microcredit Programmes’ Working Paper No. 189, Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), Chennai.
  • K. Kalpana (2004) ‘Microfinance – the Silver Bullet for Empowerment: Some Questions’ Working Paper No. 191, Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), Chennai.

Books edited and book chapters:

  • K. Kalpana (2021) Refusing Invisibility: Women Workers in Subcontracted Work in a South Indian City’, in Malin Nilsson, Indrani Mazumdar and Silke Neunsinger (eds) Home-based Work and Home-based Workers (1800 – 2021). Leiden and Boston: Brill
  • K. Kalpana (2021) Forging Solidarities: Women Workers in the Informal Sector in Tamil Nadu’, In Christine Verschuur, Isabelle Guérin and Isabelle Hillenkamp (eds) Social    Reproduction,  Solidarity Economy, Feminisms and Democracy. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • K. Kalpana (2021) Rethinking Women’s Labour in the Age of Microcredit: Some Questions, In Mary E John and Meena Gopal (Eds) Women in the Worlds of Labour: Inter-disciplinary and Intersectional Perspectives. Orient BlackSwan.
  • K. Kalpana (2017) ‘Unpacking ‘Win-Win’: How Feminists Interrogate Microfinance’ in Kalpana Kannabiran and Padmini Swaminathan (eds) Re-Presenting Feminist Methodologies: Interdisciplinary Explorations, Routledge India.
  • K. Kalpana (2015) ‘SHG Intermediation and Women’s Agency: A View from Tamil Nadu’ in Tara Nair (ed) Microfinance in India: Approaches, Outcomes, Challenges, Routledge India.
  • V. Geetha and K. Kalpana (2013) ‘Introduction: The Life and Times of Mythily Sivaraman’ in Mythily Sivaraman (2013) Haunted by Fire: Essays on Caste, Class, Exploitation and Emancipation, LeftWord, New Delhi
  • K. Kalpana (2011) ‘Negotiating Multiple Patriarchies: Women and Microfinance in South India,’ in Nalini Visvanathan, Lynn Duggan, Laurie Nisonoff and Nan Wiegersma (eds), The Women, Gender and Development Reader II : Second Edition, Zed Books.
  • K. Kalpana (2007) ‘Exposing the Media Spiel on Rural Women’ in Nalini Rajan (ed) 21st Century Journalism in India, p 139 – 145, Sage Publications, New Delhi.
  • K. Kalpana (2005), ‘Situating Microcredit in India: Some Reflections’ in Isabelle Guerin & Jane Palier (eds.), “Microfinance Challenges: Empowerment or Disempowerment of the Poor?”, p 149-158, Collection Sciences Sociales, IFP, French Institute of Pondicherry.

Book Review:

  • Review of V. Geetha authored ‘Undoing Impunity: Speech After Sexual Violence’, 2016, New Delhi: Zubaan, in Seminar 700 Contesting Impunity, December 2017 (http://www.india-seminar.com/ 2017/700/700_books.htm)
  • An Anthropological Critique of Microfinance in Bangladesh, Economic and Political Weekly, 2011, Vol XLVI, No 35, Review of Lamia Karim authored ‘Microfinance and its Discontents: Women in Debt in Bangladesh’, 2011, University of Minnesota Press.
  • Review of John Harriss authored ‘Depoliticizing Development – The World Bank and Social Capital’, 2001, Left Word Books, in Review of Development and Change, January – June 2002, Vol VII, No. 1
  • Review of Cecile Jackson and Ruth Pearson (eds) ‘Feminist Visions of Development: Gender Analysis and Policy’, 1998, Routledge, in Review of Development and Change, July – December 2002, Vol VII, No. 2

Popular Press Writings:

Awards / Fellowships / Membership of Professional Bodies:

  • Editorial Board Member of journal: Women’s Studies International Forum (https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/womens-studies-international-forum)
  • Visiting Professorship Awarded by Sciences Po Toulouse (Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Toulouse) for 2018-2019 academic year.
  • Elected as member of National Executive Committee (EC) of Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS) from 2014 to 2017.
  • ‘Young Faculty Recognition Award, Awarded by IITM for Excellence in Teaching and Research, Awarded in 2013.
  • Visiting Fellowship awarded by the Centre for the Future State at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex (Feb 2007 – April 2007).
  • Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fellowship for Doctoral Studies awarded by the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Trust, New Delhi (January 2004 – December 2005).

Selected Paper Presentations at Conferences / Seminars:

  • Paper on ‘Mobilizing Women: A feminist perspective’ presented in person at Sciences Po Toulouse, France (The Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Toulouse) and via skype for the Winter School 2018 on Labour jointly organized by French Institute of Pondicherry and University of Pondicherry, 5th December 2018.
  • Papers on ‘Forging solidarities: Women workers in the informal sector in Tamil Nadu’ (July 16, 2018) and ‘Unionizing Women Workers in the home-based food industry, North Chennai’ (July 17, 2018) at Workshop on ‘Gender, Livelihoods and Collective Action’ at IIT Madras, July 16 – 17 2018, Jointly organized by Department of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), IIT Madras and French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP).
  • Presentation (via skype) in Panel on ‘Scaling up or bubbling up: Women’s rights, articulation with the state and public policies’ at International Seminar on ‘Solidarities, Feminisms and Social Reproduction’, 3rd – 4th May 2018, held at The Graduate Institute Geneva, Organised by The Graduate Institute, Geneva, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS).
  • Paper on ‘Organizing Women: The Dilemmas of State-sponsored Developmentalism’ in Panel on ‘Feminist politics and political economy of development in India’ in BASAS (British Association for South Asian Studies) Annual Conference, 19 – 21 April, 2017, At University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, UK.
  • “Feminist analysis of social and solidarity economy practices: case studies India”, at International Workshop on “Feminist analysis of social and solidarity economy practices: Views from Latin America and India”, organized by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, 29th January 2016.
  • “Women’s Right to Citizenship and Microcredit in India” at International Symposium on “New Approaches to Citizenship and Inequality: Gender, Race and Rights” Organized by Department of Sociology, College of Liberal Arts, Purdue University, West Lafeyette, USA, October 2, 2015.
  • ‘Women and Labour: Some Conceptual Issues’ at Workshop on ‘Understanding Labour: Region, Caste and Gender; Through Tamil History and Literature’ Organized by French Institute of Pondicherry and the Tamil Nadu – Puducherry Progressive Writers Artists Association, 22nd August 2013.
  • “Sexual Violence: In the Shadow of State Power and Class and Caste Power” at Seminar on ‘Sexual Assault and Sexual Cultures’, organized by Centre for Women’s Studies (UGC-Funded), Ethiraj College for Women and Pengal Santhippu (an independent forum), 2nd February 2013.
  • ‘Women, Microfinance and the State: Inclusive Policies, Exclusionary Realities,’ at National Seminar on ‘State, Democracy and Citizenship: Issues and Challenges,’ organized by Department of Sociology, University of Pune, 14th March, 2011.
  • ‘Women and Development: The case of Microcredit’ at National Conference on ‘Indian Feminism: Towards New Frontiers’ organized by Asian Centre for Cross-Cultural Studies, Chennai, 26 August 2010.
  • ‘Determinants of decision-making by SHG women’ at International Seminar on ‘Social Exclusion and Indebtedness’ jointly organized by Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Pondicherry University and Rural Microfinance and Employment Project, French Institute of Pondicherry, 1st December 2009.
  • ‘Contests over Credit: Class, Gender and Microfinance in Rural Tamil Nadu’ at National Workshop on ‘The Poor as an Emerging Market: Strategies, Research, and Implications’ conducted by RBI Programme on Interdisciplinary Approaches to Economic Issues, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore, 6th November 2009.
  • ‘Exploring Social Relations of Class and Gender in Microfinance’ in University Grants Commission (UGC) sponsored National Seminar on ‘Democracy, Development and Marginal Groups’, organized by Sri Sharada College, October 2nd – 3rd, 2009, Basrur, Karnataka.
  • ‘Understanding Intra-Group Power Dynamics: Class, Gender and Microfinance in Rural Tamil Nadu’, ‘First European Research Conference on Microfinance’ organized by the Centre for European Research on Microfinance (CERMI), Brussels, June 2nd – 4th, 2009.
  • ‘Self Help Groups and Livelihood Initiatives’ at National Consultation on ‘Current Employment Strategies and Women’s Work’ organized by International Labour Organization (ILO) and Ministry of Labour and Employment, July 6 – 7th, 2009, New Delhi.
  • ‘Micro-credit, Gender and the State in India: Conflicts and Challenges’, Invited seminar at Oxford Department for International Development, University of Oxford, UK, 24th April 2007.
  • ‘Self Help Groups and the State in India: Confronting multiple patriarchies’, Invited seminar at Department of Politics, University of Bristol, UK, 23rd April 2007.
  • ‘Microcredit and Indian SHGs: A Critical Examination of Poverty Issues’ at National Seminar on ‘Globalization and the Indian Women’s Movement’ organized by the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS), January 20th – 21st, 2005, New Delhi.
  • ‘Problems in Interfaces between SHGs and the Nationalized Banking Sector’, Invited presentation at public hearing organized by the Independent Commission on Banking and Financial Policy set up by the All India Bank Officers Confederation (AIBOC), 10th October 2005, Chennai.
  • ‘Issues for research in SHG-based microcredit programmes in Tamil Nadu’ at National Consultation on ‘SHGs, Empowerment and Poverty Reduction’ organized by Nirantar: A Centre for Gender and Education, 13th – 14th December 2004, New Delhi.
  • ‘The Shifting Trajectories in Microfinance Discourse – Is it an Anti-Poverty Weapon?’ at the Development Convention organized by the Center for Development Studies (CDS), Trivandrum, January 24th – 25th, 2004.
  • ‘Conceptualizing links between Microfinance and Globalization’ at seminar on the “Future of Micro-credit” held at the World Social Forum, January 16th – 21st, 2004, Mumbai.

Conferences/Workshops organized:

  • Workshop on ‘Gender, Livelihoods and Collective Action’ at IIT Madras, July 16 – 17, 2018, Jointly organized by Department of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), IIT Madras and French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP).
  • Symposium on “Gender, Political Participation and Representation in India” at IIT Madras, on May 5th, 2017, sponsored by University of Nottingham, UK and Deparment of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras.
  • Symposium on “State and Social Movements: Violence, Health and Food Security” at IIT Madras, sponsored by Department of Sociology, Purdue University and Humanities and Social Sciences Department, IIT on March 13-14, 2013 (Co-organized with Dr. Binitha Thampi and Dr.R.Santhosh, IITM)

Invited Lectures/ Presentations / Panel Discussions:

  • Invited lecture as part of Special Lecture Series for all officers and staff at head office of Tamil Nadu Corporation for Development of Women (TNCDW), Chennai including staff of TN State Rural Livelihoods Mission (TNSRLM), TN Urban Livelihoods Mission (TNULM) and TN Rural Transformation Project (TNRTP), 30th January 2019.
  • Plenary Presentation on “Welfare” on 31st August 2018 in “Mind the Gap”: National Workshop on Gender Equality from the Perspective of Agenda 2030, held at Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development (RGNIYD), Sriperumbudur.
  • Panelist at Panel Discussion on Labour, Consent and Agency: The Anti Trafficking Bill 2017, held on 25 June 2018 at ICSA Centre, Chennai. Event organised by SIAAP (South India AIDS Action Programme), Vadamalar, Nirangal and Orinam.
  • Keynote address at Consultation on ‘Women and Work’ organized jointly by Prajnya and Penn Thozhilalar Sangam on 30th November 2017 at Manapakkam, Chennai.
  • Panelist at Book Release-Cum-Discussion of ‘Alternative Futures: India Unshackled’, edited by Ashish Kothari and K.J.Joy, held at Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), Chennai on 17 February 2018.
  • Panelist at ‘Women, Word, Imaging: A HERstory’ at the Hindu Lit for Life 2017, January 14, 2017.
  • Speaker at State Level Consultation on ‘Women at the workplace’ held at Asha Nivas Social Service Centre, Chennai on 23.2.2016. Organized by ‘Thozhi’ a network of women workers in Tamil Nadu and DEEPS.
  • Presentation on ‘Gender Issues in Child Protection’ at Workshop on ‘Sensitization on Recent Issues Concerning Child Protection’ organized by UNICEF and Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW), Chennai, 8th October 2016
  • Presentation on “Women and Empowerment” at Symposium on Women, Water and Wealth conduced by State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD), Tamilnadu on 28th March 2017.
  • Presentation on ‘The Enforcement and Judicial Process: Gaining Justice Using the Law’ at Seminar on ‘Stopping Violence Against Women: Socio-Cultural and Politico-Legal Challenges’ organized by the Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation, Chennai, 27th March 2013
  • Presentation on ‘Women as Agents and Actors in Empowerment: The Role of the State and Voluntary Sector’ at Thematic Seminar on Health, Education and Women’s Empowerment of the Annual Conference, Tamilnadu Foundation (TNF) on 23rd February, 2013, Raj Bhavan, Chennai
  • Presentation on ‘A Critical Review of National Policies to Combat Declining Sex Ratios’ at National Consultation on ‘Strategies to halt declining Child Sex Ratios’, organized by the Campaign Against Sex Selective Abortion (CASSA) on 20th February, 2013, Chennai.
  • Presentation at Panel Discussion on ‘Prevention of Abuse and Violence against Women’ organized by Centre for Social Initiatives and Management (CSIM), Chennai on 19th February 2013
  • Participant in panel discussion on ‘Data Collection Challenges for Specific forms of Gender Violence including Workplace Sexual Harassment, Pre-Natal Sex Selection, Street Sexual Harassment and Honour Killings’ at Seminar on ‘Making Numbers Count: A Seminar on Gender Violence Research Challenges’, Organized by Prajnya Trust, 16th September, 2011, Chennai.
  • “The Self-Help Groups Experience: Reflections on Empowerment and a Personal Journey.” Prajnya Women;s History Roundtable Series, 11 June 2011

Research Projects (ongoing and completed)

  • Research study on ‘Gender, Labour and Citizenship’ as part of ICSSR-sponsored project titled “Changing Contours of State Welfarism and Emerging Citizenship: A comparative study of Tamil Nadu and Kerala” Study period: 13 November 2013 – 12 June 2016.
  • Research study on ‘Feminist Analysis of Social and Solidarity Economy Practices: Views from India and Latin America’. Funded by the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP). Study Period: 1st October 2016 – 31st July 2019.


  • P. Aswathy – Negotiating Capital, State and Patriarchy: A Case Study of Women Fish Workers in Kerala (Completed, Degree awarded).
  • P. Shabna – Re-making the Self: A Study of Muslim Women’s Gender Discourses in Kerala.
  • Sancharini Mitra – De-stigmatizing Menstruation: Menstrual activism of young women.
  • Anuza Subramanian – Gender and Social Relations in a Globalised Workplace during the Pandemic – The Case of the Indian Information Technology (IT) Sector.

M.A. Project (Completed)

  • Meera Panicker – Female togetherness in the forest: Gender and forest management in the tribal settlement in Malakkappara, Kerala (2019).
  • S.M. Angitha – Participatory Governance in Service Delivery: The Case of Compassionate Kozhikode (2017).
  • J. B. Nandini – Can Credit Empower? An Assessment of Microfinance Programmes in Mangadu, Tamil Nadu (2017).
  • Diana Evangeline – Middle Class Associationism and the Politics of Civil Society: A case analysis in Chennai (2016).
  • Svadhvitha V. Venkatraman – Poverty, Vulnerability and Disability: An Ethnographic study on single, low income mothers of disabled children in Chennai city (2015).
  • Raiza Talish – Revisiting Institutional Co-Production from a Feminist Perspective: Case Study of the Kudumbashree’s Nutrimix and Santhwanam Initiatives (2013).
  • R.C.Sudheesh – Transformative Decentralization in Tribal Zones in Kerala: The Case of the Forest Rights Act 2006 (2012).
  • Aashish Gupta – Cash Transfers for Human Development? Evidence from a Social Cash Transfer Programme in India (2011).
  • Aadya Singh – Livelihoods and Microfinance: Credit Plus in Contemporary Development Practice (2011).
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