Graduate Students

Portrait (head shot photo)
Priti Narayan
Advisor: D. Asher Ghertner
Degree: Ph.D.
Office: Lucy Stone Hall, Room B-239
Research Interests: urban studies, India, state-society relations, city development, displacement, social movements, citizenship, public ethnography



My research examines how the informal poor in Chennai make claims to city land and basic services in a landscape marked by increasingly violent and frequent slum evictions. I posit that outcomes for the urban poor emerge from their adept navigation of ‘terrains of negotiation’ with politicians, local bureaucrats, and activists to preserve their citizenship in the city. Based on over 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork I conducted in an informal settlement, I argue that residents deploy particular, strategic positions (e.g., as pliable clients of political patrons ceding spatial privileges, or active encroachers of city space creating and sustaining an urban commons) on these terrains, highlighting how historical structures of patronage-based state society relations interact with neoliberal urbanism.

Previous Degrees:

  • M.A., Sociology, Columbia University
  • PG Dip., Television Journalism, Asian College of Journalism
  • B.Sc., Electronic Media, University of Madras


  • Narayan, Priti. (Under review). Capturing citizenship: identity documents for claims making in Chennai. Antipode.
  • Narayan, Priti. (Under review). A creative urban accumulation. Economic and Political Weekly.
  • Narayan, Priti. 2018. The informal local: A multi-scalar approach to examining participation in urban renewal. In Urban Renewal, Community and Participation: Theory, Policy and Practice, eds. Julie Clark and Nicholas Wise. Springer (The Urban Book Series).
  • Narayan, Priti. 2017. Displacement as disaster relief: Environmental gentrification and state informality in developing Chennai. In Just Green Enough: Urban Development and Environmental Gentrification, eds. Winifred Curran and Trina Hamilton. Routledge (Routledge Equity, Justice and the Sustainable City Series).
  • Narayan, Priti. 2015. Patterns in arbitrariness: Resettlement experiences of the unrecognized urban poor in Chennai. In Development­ Induced Displacement and Resettlement: New Perspectives on Persisting Problems, eds. Irge Satiroglu and Narae Choi. Routledge.
  • Raman, Nithya and Priti Narayan. 2013. Access to finance for incremental construction: A study from three low-income settlements in Chennai. State of the Urban Poor Report 2013. Oxford University Press.


  • Instructor, South Asia: Understanding development and urbanization, Fall 2018
  • Teaching Assistant, Cities, Spring 2018
  • Teaching Assistant, Transforming the Global Environment, Spring 2016
  • Instructor, South Asia, Fall 2015


  • Presidential Fellowship, Rutgers University, 2014–2019
  • Graduate Excellence Fellowship, Department of Geography, Rutgers University, 2018–2019
  • Graduate Fellowship, Seminar on "Public Catastrophes, Public Losses", Institute for Research on Women, Rutgers University, 2018–2019
  • Dissertation Teaching Award, Department of Geography, Rutgers University, 2018
  • Special Study Award, Rutgers University, 2016
  • Conference Travel Grant, Sir Ratan Tata Trust, 2013
  • Merit-based Financial Assistance Fellowship, Department of Sociology and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University, 2010–2011
  • Best Outgoing Student and the Second General Proficiency awards, Department of Electronic Media, MOP Vaishnav College for Women, University of Madras, 2008


  • Member, Pennurimai Iyakkam, a 40-year old slumdweller rights movement in Chennai, 2016–present
  • Co-President, Graduate Geographers Project (GGP), Rutgers University, 2015–2016
  • Independent Researcher, Transparent Cities Network, 2014–2016