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Malini Ranganathan Associate Professor Environment, Development & Health

Malini Ranganathan
SIS | Environment, Development & Health
School of International Service 301
Spring 2024 Office Hours: Tuesdays 1-4pm. Copy and paste this link to sign up:
Additional Positions at AU
Faculty Affiliate, Antiracist Research and Policy Center
Faculty Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Center, School of Public Affairs
Faculty Affiliate, Center for Environment, Community, and Equity
PhD, University of California, Berkeley


Malini Ranganathan is Associate Professor in the School of International Service at American University and a political ecologist and geographer by training. She is a faculty affiliate of three university centers, and is also a member of the progressive climate policy think tank, the Climate and Community Project. Most broadly, she is a scholar of urban environmental justice, who studies the political economy of land, labor, and ecology in the context of capitalist urbanization, primarily in the cities of Bangalore and Washington, D.C. She focuses on environmental casteism and environmental racism, what she refers to as "environmental unfreedoms." Specifically, she studies how colonial, caste, and racial histories shape segregated housing, water and sanitation access, and climate vulnerability. She is currently working on two books. The first, The Urbanization of Caste Power: Land, Labor, and Environmental Politics in Bengaluru, re-examines the city of Bengaluru through the analytic of caste-class power, tracing the historical and contemporary production of housing segregation, labor exploitation, and environmental injustices, and the forms of slum, legal, and union activism that have challenged these. The second, The Long Climate Crisis: Global Political Ecologies of Caste, Race, and Migration in the Indian Ocean World, argues that we rethink the climate crisis as a labor crisis wrought by heirarchies of caste, race, and environmental vulnerability. She is co-author of Corruption Plots: Stories, Ethics, and Publics of the Late Capitalist City (Cornell Press, 2023, Yoda Press 2024). The book weaves together ethnographic and literary analysis to argue, against the grain, that "corruption talk" serves as a means for various publics to narrate uneven and rapid urban development. It is deployed beyond narrow legal definitions to condemn land grabs, ecologically-risky development, and housing evictions perpetrated by elites, even as it is used opportunistically to deflect blame onto marginalized others. She is also co-editor of Rethinking Difference in India as Racialization: Caste, Tribe, and Hindu Nationalism in Transnational Perspective. Finally, Dr. Ranganathan investigates environmental unfreedoms and climate justice in American cities. Her work on abolitionist climate justice in Washington, D.C. was featured on NPR. She is part of two AU research teams: one that was awarded a National Science Foundation grant for RECIPES, a project that promotes sustainable food systems, and a second investigating Climate Story Gaps in Washington, D.C. For an overview of her transnational approach to research and teaching, stream this podcast. In 2023, Dr Ranganathan was recognized with the Harold M. Rose Award for Antiracism Research and Practice from the American Association of Geographers. In 2020 and 2021 she won the SIS and university-wide awards respectively for Outstanding Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In 2022 she won the AU Morton-Bender Prize for achievements at the associate professor level. She won an American Council of Learned Societies-Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant in 2017-2019. Please visit her website to learn more about her research.

Her research is published in EP:D (Society and Space), Environmental Justice, Ethnic and Racial Studies, The Lancet - Global Health, The Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Progress in Human Geography, Environment and Planning: A (Economy and Society), Capitalism Nature Socialism, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Geography, and Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography, among other journals. Her scholarship also appears in public venues such as e-Flux Architecture, Society and Space, and Black Perspectives. She serves on the editorial boards of Antipode, The Annals of the American Association of Geographers, and Environment and Planning: D (Society and Space). Previously, Dr Ranganathan was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Geography at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and has had research positions at TERI in New Delhi, ENDA-Tiers Monde in Dakar, and the Asian Development Bank in Manila. At SIS, Dr Ranganathan teaches SISU 250 (Environmental Sustainability and Global Health), SISU 349 (Global Cities, Justice, and the Environment), and SIS 620 (Environmental Justice).


Spring 2024

  • HNRS-398 Honors Challenge Course

  • SIS-620 Stds in Global Envirn Politics: Environmental Justice

  • SIS-899 Doctoral Dissertation

  • SISU-250 Env Sustainblty/Global Health

Partnerships & Affiliations

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Selected Publications


Selected Journal Publications

Professional Presentations

INVITED KEYNOTES (only recent)

  • 2024. "The Long Climate Crisis: Global Political Ecologies of Caste, Race, and Migration." Invited to give the 2024 Institute for Behavioral Studies colloquium at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
  • 2022. "Political Ecologies of Caste and Racial Capitalism: Remapping a Planetary Humanism." Invited to give the 2022 Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference Keynote.
  • 2021. "Abolition and Climate Justice in Transnational Perspective." Invited to the "Abolitionist and Emancipatory Futures: Antiracist Struggles and Climate Justice" panel, part of the Global Black Lives Matter Series at the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • 2019. "Towards an Anticaste and Abolitionist Epistemology for Environmental Justice in Urban India". Invited to give the keynote lecture at the "Urban Climates: Power, Development, and Environment in South Asia" conference, Dartmouth College.
  • 2019. "The Environment as Freedom: Racial Capitalism and Environmental Justice". Invited to speak at the Mellon Research Initiative in Racial Capitalism at the University of California, Davis.
  • 2019. "The Environment as Freedom: Decolonizing Urban Property, Reimagining Justice". Invited to give the annual honorary John Treacy Memorial Lecture (voted on as a "renowned pre-tenure scholar" by Geography graduate students) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.



Professional Services

Grants and Sponsored Research

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • 2023. American Association of Geographers Harold M. Rose Award for Antiracism Research and Practice
  • 2022. American University Morton-Bender Prize, recognizing "professional achievement since attainment of the rank of associate professor and to facilitate the faculty member's progress towards the rank of full professor"
  • 2021. American University Faculty Award for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • 2020. SIS Outstanding Contributions to Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion  Award
  • 2018. SIS Scholar-Teacher of the Year Award (co-recipient)
  • 2011-2013. Post-Doctoral Fellow, Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy (SDEP), Department of Geography and Beckman Institute, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • 2009-2010. Chancellor’s Dissertation-Year Fellowship in the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of California, Berkeley
  • 2007-2008. John L. Simpson Memorial Research Fellowship in International and Comparative Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Research Interests

Urban activism around housing, land, and labor rights; Global climate justice; Transnational movements against casteism and racism; Third World Internationalism; Evironmental justice and political ecology in India and the U.S., Black Marxism, Decolonial and postcolonial theory and epistemology, Critical Race Theory, Feminist theory.

AU Experts

Area of Expertise

Environmental racism in the U.S., antiracism, climate justice, environmental justice, segregation, environmental politics in India

Additional Information

Malini Ranganathan is an urban geographer and political ecologist whose research focuses on environmental justice, land and real estate politics, and climate change vulnerability in India and the U.S. She is a co-author of the book Corruption Plots: Stories, Ethics, and Publics of the Late Capitalist City published by Cornell University Press and co-editor of Rethinking Difference in in India through Racialization published by Routledge Press. She has also authored several academic journal articles and is currently working on two book manuscripts related to caste, race, and urban environmental and social justice. Her work appears in media and scholarly outlets such as the Washington Post, WAMU, Vox, Black Perspectives, and Society and Space. She is the winner of the 2023 American Association of Geographers Harold M. Rose Award for Antiracist Research and Practice and the 2022 American University Morton-Bender Prize for outstanding achievement at the associate professor level.

For the Media

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