UCL Anthropology


Lucia Michelutti



E-mail: l.michelutti@ucl.ac.uk

Office Room: 138

Telephone number:
020 76791038

Professor of Anthropology

Michelutti is interested in the ethnographic study of caste/race, popular democracy, violence, crime and politics as well as cultures of leadership, authority and masculinity. She has carried out extensive fieldwork in North India (Uttar Pradesh) and has worked in Venezuela and on South Asia in comparative contexts. She is the author of 'The vernacularisation of democracy: politics, caste and religion in contemporary India' (Routledge 2008). More recently she has been writing on bossism and mafia systems of governance ('Mafia Raj') in South Asia. She is also working on a  monograph on charisma and political experimentations in Venezuela (provisionally entitled: 'In the name of the people. Gods and politics in a Venezuelan village').

Her research has been funded by the Economic Social Research Council (Post-Doctoral Fellowship 2002-2004; Research Grant 2004-2008; Research Grant 2012-16), the Nuffield Foundation (2009) and an ERC-Starting Investigator Grant - funded by the European Union as part of the Framework Programme 7 (FP7) (2012-2016). In 2017, she has been awarded an ERC Proof of Concept Grant (2018- 2020) to enhance the impact of her research on political criminal economies in South Asia and develop an Ethnographically Driven Risk Analysis Framework (EDRAF) for social business and impact investing in risky political economies. 

In 2020 she has been awarded an ERC-Advance Grant (2021-2025) funded by the European Union to study extortion practices cross-culturally.

Recent Publications 


(2008) The Vernacularisation of Democracy. Caste, Religion and Politics in North India. Delhi, London: Routledge.

(2018) Mafia Raj: The Rule of Bosses in South Asia. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Co-authored with Ashraf Hoque, Nicolas Martin, David Picherit, Paul Rollier, Arild Ruud and Clarinda Still.

Edited works

(2021) Brigands (Special Issue). Terrain. 74 March. Co-edit iwth David Picherit

(2019) Criminal Political Economies in South Asia. London: UCL Press. Co-edit with Barbara Harriss-White.

(2013) Divine Kinship and Politics. Focaal, Volume 2013, Winter 2013 (67), 3-73. Co-edit with Alice Forbess.

Articles/ Chapters

(2021) Le bandit et ses mythes. La production collective du charisme violent (introduction to Special issue). Co-authored with David Picherit. Translation: The bandit and his myths. The collective production of violent charisma

(2020). Electoral manipulation and impunity: ethnographic notes from Uttar Pradesh. Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 58 (1), 21-42.  

(2020). Caste and the Anthropology of Democracy. In Y. Srivastava, J. Abraham (Eds.), Critical Themes in Indian Sociology. SAGE Publications Pvt. Limited. 

(2019)  The criminal life of sand and oil mafias in North India. In Wild East Criminal Political Economies. UCL Press. 

(2018). Parivar Raj (Rule of Family): The role of Money and Force in the Making of Dynastic Authority. Studies in Indian Politics, 6(2): 196-208

(2018) with Ashraf Hoque. Brushing with organized crime and democracy: the art of making do in South AsiaJournal of Asian Studies,  1-21.

(2017) with Nicolas Martin. Protection Rackets and Party Machines. Comparative Ethnographies of 'Mafia Raj' in North India. Asian Journal of Social Science 45: 692-722.

(2017) 'We are all Chavez'. Charisma as an embodied experience. Latin American Perspectives: a journal on capitalism and socialism. Vol. 44, Issue 1.