Kriti Kapila

Site(s): Dr Kriti Kapila
mots clés: International development, Law, Medicine, Politics, Policy

Kriti Kapila is Lecturer in Anthropology and Law at King’s India Institute, and the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s College London. Kriti’s research has focused on the anthropology of law, and the anthropology of the state. She is the author of Nullius: The Anthropology of Ownership, Sovereignty, and the Law in India (HAU Books, Chicago 2022). Nullius proposed a new anthropology of sovereignty through an ethnographic exploration of erasure and dispossession. She is currently completing her second book manuscript on historical genetics and genomic medicine in India. The book, tentatively entitled Indigene, examines the dynamic of absence and presence of race as a framing device in the research on human genetics in India. Her new research examines the relationship between numeracy, digitality, and sovereignty in the post-biometric state India.


  • Mardi 7 juin, 14h30 - 17h30
  • 54, boulevard Raspail, salle BS1_28

Dans le cadre du séminaire “Arts et Intelligences du Silence”

Deadly Silences: towards a political anthropology of absence (avec Deborah Puccio-Den et Ida Susser)

In this session we explore the relationality summoned in and through absence in a variety of ethnographic settings. We propose that absence here is a signature of the political broadly understood, where it stands in for an exercise of power. We make a departure from dominant forms of ethnographic inquiry of the political, most of which focus on subjectivity (eg. citizenship, migrants, etc), political wholes (nation-state, political parties) and forms of presence (modes of being in the world, ontologies). We throw open the inquiry via what Navaro (2020) has called “negative methodology” and excavates not subjectivity but modes of relationality engendered by the absence when “it emerges as a political reality”. Our ethnographic objects are thus a series of figurations of absence. Puccio-Den examines the silence required for making tangible the absence in the Sicilian mafiosi’s deadly practices. Susser focuses on the silences allowing the shaping of political links among gilets-jaunes in France. Kapila probes the excess generated by disappearance and dispossession as sovereignty-making practices of the digital state in India. Absence is both the object of our analysis and of our unsettling questioning on the conditions of our research practice and methods beyond evidence. We attempt to make visible the conceptual terrain in which the relationality of absence can be studied and their potential for a new political anthropology.


  • Mardi 14 juin, 14h à 17h30
  • 54, boulevard Raspail, salle BS1_28

Dans le cadre du séminaire “Arts et Intelligences du Silence”

Absence, effacement and disappearance in the digital state

In this paper I attend to the changing relationship between Indian citizens and the ever-proliferating digital state. These changes emerge in the wake of Aadhaar, the world’s large biometrics identification programme that now enjoys a de facto mandatory status for all Indian citizens and residents. Building on Aadhaar, the Indian state has embarked on a series of interventions aimed at becoming invisible, if not absent, ironically as a way of becoming omnipresent. These interventions may be premised on techno-utopic notions of transparency and efficiency but in fact emerge from a relational mode of nullification and erasure. Shifting the perspective on the relationship between the digital and the social beyond surveillance, privacy, and security concerns, this paper instead pays attention to the erasure and nullification entailed in sovereignty-making. Through its discussion of the changing state-citizen relation under the post-biometric Indian state as a series of unfreedoms, the paper explores the excess produced in dispossession.


  • Jeudi 16 juin -  14h
  • EHESS, Bd Raspail tbc*

Dans le cadre du séminaire “Making Sense of Cancer in the Age of Genomics”

The dryness of dry labs and the calculus of hope in genomic medicine

One of the key features of contemporary biological sciences is the disappearance of ‘biological’ materials from the lab bench. Instead, a vast majority of genetics research globally relies on alphanumeric data sets, algorithms, and computational programmes. In this paper, I explore the dematerialisation of vital substance in genomics research, in relation to the research carried out for genomic medicine. I attend to the sensory, scientific, regulatory, and ethical significance of the informationalisation of life for scientists in genomic medicine and the International Cancer Genome Consortium in India. In what ways does the disappearance of biological materials from the lab hinder and facilitate a global research consortium such as ICGC? Examining the development of biostatistics and bioinformatics in India, this paper asks if a national science is indeed possible today in the days of transnational or global science.

How do these efforts of calculation based in Mendelian notions of genetic probability intersect with wider concepts of fortune and misfortune?  I aim to understand the speculative hope vested in genomic medicine in India, especially in the way it mobilises already available idioms of fortune and misfortune, and attendant risk mitigation strategies.


  • Jeudi 23 juin - 14h

Dans le cadre du séminaire “Arts et Intelligences du Silence”

Nullius: owning and dispossessing in contemporary India

What is left when something is taken away? Anthropologists since Marcel Mauss have been fascinated by the excess generated in giving and hau is that which exceeds the actual thing given in gift. This excess is generative of lingering relationality, of amplification or diminution of status, and of prompts that propel movement and exchange. But relatively little attention has been paid to the opposite of the gift—to what happens in the event of taking away. My book Nullius (HAU Books 2022) explores this obverse, the other excess that is generated in and through dispossession, and the relationality generated in its wake. Specifically, it presents an anthropological account of the dispossessing instincts of the Indian state as sovereignty-making and describes the relations that are created and cast anew in acts of erasure. At the heart of dispossession lies the question of ownership and any understanding of its erasure requires an understanding of owning, having, and holding, as well as what can and cannot be taken away. Who can take away and, when one’s possessions are taken away, what indeed is left?