Professor Nikita Sud

Professor Nikita Sud

University of Oxford, Wolfson College

Political & International Dimensions of  Development, East & Southeast Asia


Dr. Nikita Sud is Professor of the Politics of Development at the University of Oxford. She is Governing Body Fellow and Vicegerent of Wolfson College, and a faculty member of the Oxford Department of International Development. She is an inter-disciplinary scholar, educated at the Universities of Delhi and Oxford. Ms. Nikita Sud’s research and teaching is centred on the politics of development; the sociology and politics of climate change and green energy; and the changing nature of the state in the global South. In recent research, Nikita delves into development theory, especially the construct of the global South (see Sud and Sanchez-Ancochea, 2022). She is also undertaking comparative research on the climate crisis, and institutional and political responses to this in South and Southeast Asia. Her work explores the transition to renewable energy, and the institutional, political and financial mechanisms that underlie this in regions that are geostrategically crucial, while being environmentally highly vulnerable. Nikita convenes an MPhil course on ‘climate questions from the global South’. She is keen to supervise critical social science research on the politics of climate change and energy transition, with a focus on Asia. Nikita has for long studied the socially entangled life of land. In research conducted in west, east and south India, she explored ideas and theories of land. The latter were put in conversation with processes of land-making in relation to state-, politics- and market-making. Alongside publications in Geography, Environment, Development Studies, and Agrarian Studies journals, this research is encapsulated in the monograph The Making of Land and The Making of India (Oxford University Press, 2021). Previously, she has written on the Indian state, in particular, its engagement with development as an idea and in practice; its interaction with minorities based on gender, caste and religion; and the reinvention rather than recession of this entity under economic liberalisation. This long-term research resulted in her 2012 book, Liberalization, Hindu Nationalism and the State: A Biography of Gujarat, which was widely reviewed. Nikita is enthusiastic about interacting with publics beyond the academic. She regularly writes for national and international media. Her research has featured in The Conversation, Thomson Reuters Place, Mongabay, openDemocracy, Los Angeles Times, Al Jazeera, TRT World, Asian Scientist, The Telegraph, The Times of India, The Hindu, The Indian Express, Outlook, Tehelka, The,, NDTV, The Tribune, Dainik Bhaskar, East Asia Forum, Mediapart, Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Business, BBC Radio 4, Radio France, and Radio Ö1 of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, among others. She is a recipient of an Oxford University Teaching Excellence Award, the Sanjaya Lall Prize, and a Falling Walls Social Science award. She serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Peasant Studies, Economy and Society, Journal of Contemporary Asia, and Area Development and Policy.

Research interests

The changing nature of the state in the global South, especially Asia; the politics of climate change, including green energy transitions, with a focus on South and Southeast Asia; the politics of economic liberalisation and business-state interactions; the global land grab; the politics of land markets; the society, politics, ecology and political economy of post-independence India, Indonesia and Singapore.


Liberalisation, Hindu nationalism and the state

Liberalisation, Hindu Nationalism and The State is a re-examination of the post-independence history and politics of Gujarat, one of India’s leading federal units. Today, Gujarat is known for its pioneering role in market liberalisation and as the site of ethno-religious strife. Adopting a long-term view, the project offers a fresh perspective on the seemingly puzzling co-existence of economic liberalism and political illiberalism. Challenging paradigms that posit the decline of the developmental state in India, it places the ideas, institutions and politics of the state at the heart of the analysis.  Highlighting the state’s recent re-orientation, both as an enabler of the market and as a vehicle for Hindu cultural nationalism, the research establishes how interactions between a re-invigorated state, private corporate capital and ethno-nationalism are configuring the ‘new India’. Funder : UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Religion in the making of a region

Religion has been varyingly discussed as a source of radicalisation, as also human development and well being. Certainly, it continues to be an important factor in South Asian societies and polities. This project explores its multidimensional influence in the making of a region -­ Gujarat, western India. A hub of Indian Ocean trade networks for centuries, Gujarat has seen rich interaction between Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Parsis and Christians and their sectarian traditions. This complex history is being erased today, as neo-liberal growth is accompanied by increasing violence against religious minorities under a Hindu nationalist government. Our aim has been to produce a unique narrative by delving into seven thematic areas -­ religion and politics in early modern and contemporary times; religious communities and the making of the region; caste and community today; religion in the economy; religion on the margins; and gurus in a democratic developmental space. Overall, the idea is not to reify religion, but to highlight its role in the producing, sustaining and sometimes endangering of Gujarat. The web of religious experience and possibilities that we construct is analytically achievable only in the focused spatiality of a study such as ours. However, our findings have relevance to the resurgence of studies of religion more broadly. Funder : Political Studies Association

Exploring a sharing society: land and sustainability in India

In the last decade, 50 million hectares of land have been ‘grabbed’ for urban expansion, industry, infrastructure and mining in the South. Of these, 5 million hectares are in India. The project will work with partners who lead, advocate for and document peoples’ movements against this land grab and who seek more equitable, sustainable land use. These various groups understand land in multiple ways: as a base for growth, but also as more than individualised property – as collective history, memory, and people’s connection to the earth. The project develops this multidimensional engagement with land academically, and then delves into its practical implications for sustainability. Among planned events are an impact-oriented workshop which will consider whether ‘multidimensional land’ can be the building block for a ‘sharing society’ of resource use. This will draw on the idea of the ‘sharing economy’, in which users have temporary access to assets with potential capacity, along the lines of Uber and AirBnB. The workshop will investigate whether multidimensional land can be shared among stakeholders who are invested in its use and preservation. Funder : Global Challenges Research Fund

Landscapes of liberalisation

The ‘great land grab’ occupies centre stage in debates on Indian political economy today. This project explores the politics of the ongoing rapid and highly contested conversion of agricultural, forest, coastal and pastoral land for industrial and commercial purposes, which are geared towards serving the new economy. It aims to highlight the tug over natural resources in India, the alliance between the state and big business that is facilitating land liberalisation, and the dilemma of balancing the interests of a few in a growing economy with those of the many in a flourishing democracy. Funder : Oxford Department of International Development; Wolfson College

Teaching & Supervision

Nikita teaches on the MPhil and DPhil at ODID. For the MPhil in Development Studies, she contributes to the Core Course, the Foundation Course in the History and Politics of the Developing World, and to Qualitative Research Methods. She also convenes a second-year option on Climate Questions from the Global South. She has acted as a research assessor across the university’s Social Science Division, including in the departments of Social Policy, Global and Area Studies, Geography, Politics and International Relations, Law, and Continuing Education.

Doctoral supervision

Nikita’s doctoral students past and present have worked on: agrarian and social change in India and Pakistan; the state and citizenship in South and South East Asia; land and urban transformation; the history and politics of Gujarat; the sociology, politics, history and political economy of Hindu nationalism; smart cities, special economic zones and industrial corridors with a focus on institutions, accumulation, politics and the environment; and the politics of welfare and development. She is happy to hear from prospective doctoral students interested in any of her areas of research. She will particularly welcome conceptually innovative and theoretically informed projects on the intersections of: development, climate change and the environment, and the contemporary anti-democratic politics of authoritarianism and populism.


Books & Monographs:
– Sud, Nikita (2021) ‘The Making of Land and The Making of India ‘, New Delhi: Oxford University Press
– Sud, Nikita (2012) ‘Liberalization, Hindu Nationalism and the State ‘, New Delhi: Oxford University Press
Journal, articles and special issues
– Sud, Nikita (2022) ‘Southern Discomfort: Interrogating the Category of the Global South ‘, Development and Change 53 (6) : 1123-50
– Sud, Nikita (2020) ‘The Unfixed State of Unfixed Land ‘, Development and Change 51 (5) : 1175-98
– Sud, Nikita (2020) ‘Making the political, and doing politics: unfixed land in an Amoebal Zone in India ‘, Journal of Peasant Studies 47 (6) : 1348-70
– Sud, Nikita (2017) ‘State, scale and networks in the liberalisation of India’s land ‘, Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 35 (1) : 76-93
– Sud, Nikita (2014) ‘Governing India’s Land ‘, World Development 60 : 43-56
– Sud, Nikita (2014) ‘The men in the middle: A missing dimension in global land deals ‘, Journal of Peasant Studies 41 (4) : 593-612
– Sud, Nikita (2013) ‘Local Agency, and Structural Continuity: Views from an SHG-based Microcredit Scheme in Western India ‘, European Journal of Development Research 25 (2) : 271-87
Sud, Nikita (with H Tambs-Lyche )(2011) ‘Special Issue: Religion in the Making of a Region: Perspectives from Gujarat ‘, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 34(3)
Sud, Nikita (with H Tambs-Lyche )(2011) ‘Introduction: Religion in the Making of a Region ‘, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 34(3) : 319-32
Sud, Nikita (2009) ‘Cracks in the Facade: The Gujarat BJP and Elections 2009 ‘, Economic and Political Weekly 44 (28) : 15-19
Sud, Nikita (2009) ‘The Indian State in a Liberalizing Landscape ‘, Development and Change 40 (4) : 645-65
Sud, Nikita (2008) ‘Tracing the Links Between Hindu Nationalism and the Indian Diaspora ‘, St Antony’s International Review 3(2) : 50-65
Sud, Nikita (2008) ‘The Nano and Good Governance in Gujarat ‘, Economic and Political Weekly 43 (50) : 13-14
Sud, Nikita (2008) ‘Secularism and the Gujarat State: 1960-2005 ‘, Modern Asian Studies 42(6) : 1249-70
Sud, Nikita (2007) ‘Constructing and Contesting an Ethno-Religious Gujarati-Hindu Identity Through Development Programmes in an Indian State ‘, Oxford Development Studies 35 (2) : 131-48
Sud, Nikita (2007) ‘From Land to the Tiller to Land Liberalisation: The Political Economy of Gujarat’s Shifting Land Policy ‘, Modern Asian Studies 41 (3) : 603-38
Sud, Nikita (2003) ‘Experiences of the SGSY in Gujarat. From Process-Oriented Theory to Deterministic Practice ‘, Economic and Political Weekly 38 (39) : 4085-7
– Sud, Nikita (with Harald Tambs-Lyche )(2016) ‘Gujarat and the Contradictory Co-existence of Economic Enterprise and Political Illiberalism ‘, In Knut A Jacobsen (eds) Routledge Handbook of Contemporary India London: Routledge
– Sud, Nikita (2010) ‘The Politics of Land in Post-colonial Gujarat ‘, In E Simpson, A Kapadia (eds) The Idea of Gujarat. History, Ethnography and Text Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan
Working papers
– Sud, Nikita (2008) ‘Narrowing Possibilities of Stateness: The Case of Land in Gujarat ‘, QEH Working Paper Series QEHWPS163
– Sud, Nikita (with A Yagnik )(2004) ‘Hindutva and Beyond: The Political Topography of Gujarat ‘, LSE Crisis States Research Centre


In the media

– “Victims of the green energy boom? The Indonesians facing eviction over a China-backed plan to turn their island into a solar panel ‘ecocity’”, Nikita Sud, The Conversation, Oct 23, 2023

– “After Kanwariyas, Yogi Adityanath Goes Big On Navratri”, Nikita Sud, NDTV, March 14, 2023

– “Has the G20 meeting produced solutions or more divisions?”, Nikita Sud, Aljazeera, March 2, 2023

– “The Forum – Cooper: from mining to microprocessors”, Nikita Sud, BBC, Jan 20, 2022

– “Why are India’s farmers angry?”, Nikita Sud, Aljazeera, Feb 21, 2021

– “What will it take to end Indian farmers’ protests?”, Nikita Sud, Aljazeera, Dec 12, 2020

– “How will Indian PM Narendra Modi deal with angry farmers?”, Nikita Sud, Aljazeera, Dec 12, 2020

– “Why are they going after Bollywood?”, Nikita Sud,, Sep 25, 2020

– “Hitting the Brakes: Rise in COVID-19 cases in India forces more lockdowns”, Nikita Sud, TRTWORLD, Sep 25, 2020

– “Why It’s Necessary to Believe ‘All Is Well’ in India’s Border Clash With China” , Nikita Sud, The Wire, Jun 17, 2020

– “Rethinking land for the 21st century”, Nikita Sud, Mongabay, June 4, 2020