Complex Realities: Alpa Shah on Poverty, Inequality, and Democracy in India

In this episode of Unequal Worlds, we speak with Alpa Shah, an anthropologist and lecturer at the London School of Economics, about the complex issues of inequality, democracy, and activism in India.

Shah begins by discussing the importance of democracy in protecting minority rights and questions whether this ideal is being upheld in India. She also highlights the complexity of the term “decolonisation” and warns against its potential hijacking by extremist forces.

The conversation then turns to the challenges of labour unionisation in India, particularly in representing informal sector workers. Shah notes that unions often focus on formal sector labour, leaving out a significant portion of the workforce.


Shifting to the intersectionality of various forms of inequality, Shah introduces the concept of “conjugated oppression.” She emphasises the need for mobilisation efforts that address multiple forms of inequality simultaneously.

Shah also discusses the impact of her research on both academic and public audiences. She notes that her work has raised awareness of inequality and discrimination in India, particularly among the Indian diaspora. She also mentions that her research has reached higher levels of policymaking, such as the United Nations.

The conversation concludes with a mention of Shah’s upcoming book, “Incarcerations,” which is set to be released in March 2024.

This episode is a must-listen for anyone interested in the challenges of inequality and discrimination in India, the importance of intersectional mobilisation, and the impact of academic research on raising awareness and influencing policy changes.

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