Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Economic transitions, dualism, and informality in India: From a global South-centric lens

21 November 2023, 5:30 pm–7:00 pm

Economic transitions, dualism, and informality in India: From a global South-centric lens

Join UCL IIPP in conversation with Dr Surbhi Kesar, Lecturer in Economics, SOAS University of London and Dr Carolina Alves, Associate Professor in Economics, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose.

This event is free.

Event Information

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All | UCL staff | UCL students






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UCL IIPP or online via Zoom
11 Montague Street

Join this fascinating discssion on Tuesday 21st November 2023 at 17:30-19:00 (BST) UK Time online on Zoom or in person at UCL IIPP 11 Montague Street WC1B 5BP.

About this event: 

In this talk, Dr Surbhi Kesar will discuss her research on informal economy and the process of capitalist development in India. The continued persistence of large swathes of informal economy in India desipte high growth poses a major roadblock in the imaginary of the development as structural transformation and capitalist transition. Various mainstream and critical theoretical frameworks have attempted to explain this persistence in terms of various competing perspectives. Dr Kesar will draw upon her existing and on-going research to unpack the patterns and nature of household-level and individual-level transitions across different sectors, characterised by varying degrees of formality/informality and various production structures and labour processes. Through this, she will attempt to highlight the dynamics of India's contemporary development trajectory. Based on the analysis, she will reflect on the competing strands of literature that seek to explain the persistence of informality, and discuss an alternative South-centric theoretical framework that aligns better with India's contemporary reality. She will also discuss her on-going work that is engaged in developing this framework and the avenues that need further work.

Meet the panel:

  • PanellistSurbhi Kesar, Lecturer in Economic, SOAS University of London
  • DiscussantJoão Pedro Loureiro Braga, PhD Candidate, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose
  • DiscussantRahul Jain, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose
  • ConvenorCarolina Alves, Associate Professor in Economics, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose

A UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose event, with support from the UCL Centre for Capitalism Studies at the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies.

Read more about IIPP Conversations 2023-24

About the Speakers

Dr Surbhi Kesar

Lecturer in Economics at SOAS

Surbhi Kesar is a development and political economist, who works as a lecturer in the Department of Economics at SOAS University of London. Her work focusses on labour, the informal economy, and the reproduction of the structure of economic dualism in the Indian context of high economic growth, thereby critiquing the imaginary of development-as-capitalist-transition. Her other works focus on the process of economic growth and social exclusion in India; political economy of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic; and approaches towards decolonizing the field of economics. She is an editorial board member of the Review of Radical Political Economics journal and the Review of Political Economy journal. She is also a visiting faculty at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, and a steering group member for the Diversifying and Decolonising Economics initiative. She received her PhD in Economics from South Asian University, New Delhi, and was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She was the 'featured economist' of the International Economic Association for October 2023. She is an editorial board member of the Review of Radical Political Economics and Review of Political Economy journals.

More about Dr Surbhi Kesar

Dr Carolina Alves

Associate Professor in Economics at UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose

Carolina specialises in macroeconomics and international political economy, with regional expertise in Latin America.

Carolina joins IIPP from Girton College at the University of Cambridge where she was the Joan Robinson Research Fellow in Heterodox Economics and a College Teaching Officer at the Faculty of Economics. At Cambridge, she led teaching in macroeconomics, political and social aspects of economics, and history and philosophy of economics, while also being the Director of Studies for Economics for second-year undergrads, and a member of Girton’s College Council responsible for the stewardship of the College.

Carolina is the co-founder of Diversifying and Decolonising Economics – a network of economists working to promote inclusiveness in economics in both the academic content and the field’s institutional structures. She is a member of the Rebuilding Macroeconomics Advisory Group - a research initiative aimed at re-invigorating macroeconomics and bringing it back to the fore as a policy-relevant social science, as well as being the co-editor for the Developing Economics blog, which takes a critical approach to creating discussion and reflection in the field of economics. She is also a board member on the Progressive Economy Forum Council (PEF) and Positive Money.

More about Dr Carolina Alves