Sumitra Nair

PhD Candidate

Blacksburg Campus


I am a doctoral candidate in Science and Technology Studies with a focus on infrastructure studies. My work examines the building and maintenance of information infrastructures, especially those oriented towards publics, particularly in non-western geographies. I draw on anthropological methods to study material and non-material productions within these large information systems. More generally, I am interested the theoretical intersections of postcolonial studies and STS.

I study with Gary Downey (STS), and also work closely with Saul Halfon (STS), Matt Wisnioski (STS), and Aditya Johri (Engineering Education).

My dissertation examines the building of an information infrastructure for managing India's largest poverty alleviation programme (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, NREGA 2005), and these new technologies' relationship to questions of design, citizenship, labour, nation-building and engineering. An accompanying interest is qualitative research methodologies that account for things and people simultaneously.

In a previous life, I worked as an ethnographer with Microsoft Research India (MSRI) for the Technologies for Emerging Markets group. I studied technology use among urban slum dwellers, middle class homes and young users, and entrepreneurial networks within the urban slums' informal economies, mostly in and around Bombay, India. I have an undergraduate degree in Sociology (Hindu College, Delhi University), and masters degrees in Sociology (Delhi School of Economics) and Science and Technology Studies (Virginia Tech).