Bhaskar Vira, MA MPhil PhD
University Senior Lecturer and Fellow of Fitzwilliam College
Environmental and development economics; political economy, particularly the study of institutions and institutional change; public policy in the developing world, especially India; state-society interactions in development.
- 1993-1994: College Lecturer in Economics, St John's College, University of Cambridge
- 1994-1997: WMI Research Fellow in Environment and Development, Oxford Centre for the Environment, Ethics and Society, Mansfield College, University of Oxford
- 1998-present: Department of Geography & Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge.
- BA University of Delhi
- BA University of Cambridge (MA)
- MPhil University of Cambridge
- PhD University of Cambridge
Society, Environment and Development
At its broadest level, my research can be described as an engagement with the Political Economy of Development, with two major sub-themes: (a) Political Ecology; and (b) Development and Change.
Within this broad area of work, my interests focus especially on the governance of natural resources, particularly forests, wildlife and landuse in India; on institutions and incentives for natural resource use and management; and on policy change in the natural resource sector. Some specific areas of on-going and planned work within this theme are:
(1) Governance of natural resources: forests, wildlife and landuse change in India
(a) This theme builds on my long term engagement with alternative models of forest governance in India, from state management to JFM, cooperatives, community management and private forestry. I currently have two PhD students working in this area (Chetan Kumar and Sushil Saigal). I also have long standing interests in issues relating to decentralisation in the Indian forest sector. A PhD student, Rohini Chaturvedi, is focusing specifically on these issues in the context of political federalism in India. A recent research project explored some of these themes in the context of participatory forest management in Madhya Pradesh.
- Incorporating Stakeholder Perceptions in Participatory Forest Management in India. (Project funded by DFID Natural Resources Systems Programme).
- Policy and governance in natural resource management
(b) I also have an interest in the social context for biodiversity conservation, especially focusing on conservation and wildlife management in India. I have an ongoing engagement with the Cambridge Conservation Initiative in this area, and continued collaboration with Professor Bill Adams. I am supervising three PhD students who are working on related themes: (i) conservation-related displacement from a National Park in Central India (Kim Beazley); (ii) incentives for conservation in India (Arshiya Bose); (iii) eco-tourism and its potential as a conservation strategy in India (Ritika Kapur). A current research project in this area is seeking to understand values held by conservationists. I am also writing a review paper that explores links between poverty and biodiversity. I am an Associate Editor of the journal Conservation and Society.
(2) Incentives for natural resource use and management: ecosystem services, poverty and tradeoffs
This theme looks specifically at emerging discourses around the concept of ecosystem services. Previous project work in this area includes an ESRC-NERC seminar series on Ecosystem Services (collaboratively with the University of East Anglia); as well as a capacity building project funded by the NERC ESRC DFID Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation programme (with the Universities of Oxford and Liverpool, and Indian partners): Strengthening Capacity to Alleviate Poverty through Ecosystem Services: Putting methodological developments into practice. Current research projects are funded by the NERC ESRC DFID Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme, and from the Cambridge Conservation Initiative Collaborative Fund.
- Negotiating Tradeoffs: Making Informed Choices about Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation
- Beyond Win-Win: Interrogating Ecosystem Services Dynamics
(3) Understanding and supporting the policy process for ecosystems and natural resources
(a) Understanding the discourses and processes of policy change, especially in the context of ecosystem services and resource management. This was the focus of work as part of the Responses Working Group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (where I was a Coordinating Lead Author), and its follow up methods manual (in collaboration with UNEP-WCMC). I am currently leading the responses chapter for the UK National Ecosystem Assessment. I am also engaged in a study with collaborators within the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, examining the ways in which policy to address biodiversity loss can learn from the climate change experience.
Development and Change
This broad area of work spans the changing economic dynamics of development, as well as the social and political dimensions of development and change. Some specific areas of work include:
(1) The 'new economy' and development
(a) Working in the new service economy: an on-going project looks at the labour process in Indian call centres (Nuffield/Newton Trust funded project, with Dr Al James, Queen Mary, University of London). We intend to extend this research through broader project focusing on the emerging service economies in India, with a specific focus on work, employment and social change.
- Geographies of Worker Empowerment in the New Economy: Labour Market Intermediaries in the Call Centre Industry (India and UK)
(b) Economic liberalisation and competing landuses in India: controversies over mining and Special Economic Zones (a PhD student, Heather Bedi Plumridge, is looking at social organising in the context of SEZs in Goa). A second PhD student (Girija Godbole) is looking at gender issues in the context of land inheritance in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, especially focusing on how these relationships are changing in light of recent economic developments.
(c) Business and poverty: understanding the 'bottom of the pyramid'. An ESRC CASE studentship has been secured with external support from S C Johnson, to focus on their business and poverty programmes in Nairobi (PhD student, Tatiana Thieme).
(2) Understanding social and political change
(a) One theme in this area concerns the assessment of social change, especially understanding how Monitoring and Evaluation processes fit in to policy/project implementation. This was the theme for a workshop on 'Monitoring and Evaluation for Learning' that I co-organised in New Delhi with Winrock International India and IUCN India in September 2008.
(b) A further theme focuses on the changing interaction of the state and society in contemporary India, especially focusing on the ways in which marginal and vulnerable groups perceive and interact with the state. A major conference on 'Experiencing the State: Marginalised People and the Politics of Development' was held on 12-13 March 2009, with support from the University of Cambridge Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH). Two former PhD students (Philippa Williams and Deepta Chopra) are working with me to produce two special issues for the journals Pacific Affairs and Contemporary South Asia, based on papers presented at this workshop.
- Vira, B. and A. James (in press, forthcoming, 2012) Building Cross-Sector Careers in India's New Service Economy? Tracking ex-Call Centre Agents in the National Capital Region. Development and Change, 43(2).
- Vira, B., Elliott, L.C., Fortnam, M. and Wilks, S. (2011). Making Decisions: Response Options. In: The UK National Ecosystem Assessment Technical Report. UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge. Chapter 27, pp.1309-1451. Available at http://uknea.unep-wcmc.org/Resources/tabid/82/Default.aspx
- Chopra, D., Vira, B. & Williams, P. J. (2011). Politics of citizenship: experiencing state–society relations from the margins. Contemporary South Asia, 19(3), 243-247. doi:10.1080/09584935.2011.596275
- Vira, B. and James, A. (2011) Researching hybrid 'economic' / 'development' geographies in practice: methodological reflections from a collaborative project on India's New Service Economy. Progress in Human Geography, 35(5), 627-651. doi:10.1177/0309132510394012.
- Williams, P.J., Vira, B. and Chopra, D. (2011) Marginality, agency and power: experiencing the state in contemporary India. Pacific Affairs, 84(1), 7-23.
- Sandbrook, C. G., Scales, I. R., Vira, B., and Adams, W. M. (2011) Value Plurality among Conservation Professionals. Conservation Biology, 25(2), 285-294. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01592.x.
- Rands, M. R. W., Adams, W. M., Bennun, L., Butchart, S. H. M., Clements, A., Coomes, D., Entwistle, A., Hodge, I., Kapos, V., Scharleman, J. P. W., Sutherland, W. J. and Vira, B. (2010) "Biodiversity Conservation: Challenges Beyond 2010", Science, 329 (5997), 1298-1303. doi:10.1126/science.1189138
- James, A. and Vira, B. (2010) "'Unionising' the new spaces of the new economy? Alternative labour organising in India's IT Enabled Services-Business Process Outsourcing industry", Geoforum, 41(3), 364-376.
- Simpson, R.D. and Vira, B. (2010) "Assessing intervention strategies" in N.Ash et al (eds.) Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: A Manual for Assessment Practitioners, Washington DC: Island Press, 221-253.
- Vira, B. and Kontoleon, A. (2010) "Dependence of the poor on biodiversity: which poor, what biodiversity?", A State of Knowledge Review, London: International Institute for Environment and Development. (54 pp). Published in Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Technical Series No 55, Linking Biodiversity Conservation and Poverty Alleviation: A State of Knowledge Review, pp.13-28.
- Vira, B. and Adams, W. M. (2009) "Ecosystem Services and Conservation Strategy: beware the silver bullet", Conservation Letters, 2(4), 158-162.
- Vira, B. (2008) "Identity and Politics in Contemporary South Asia", Introduction to the Special Issue; Contemporary South Asia, 16(4), 389-395.
- Vira, B. (2006) "Evolving Paradigms in Forest Governance: an overview" in LEAD India (ed.) Stakeholder Participation in Environmental Governance, Delhi: LEAD India.
- Vira, B. (2005) "Deconstructing the Harda Experience: the limits of bureaucratic participation", Economic and Political Weekly, 40(48), 5068-75.
- Vira, B. and Vira, S. (2005) "Governing India's Urban Environment: Problems, Policies and Politics," in E. Hust and M. Mann (eds.) Problems of Urbanization in South Asia: Governance and Public Response, Delhi, Manohar.
- Fisher, D. R., Simpson, R. D., Vira, B., Chambers, W. B. and Davidson, D. J. (2005) "Assessing Responses," In K. Chopra, R. Leemans, P. Kumar and H. Simons (eds.) Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Policy Responses, Volume 3. Findings of the Responses Working Group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment," Washington, DC: Island Press, pp. 71-94.
- Vira, B. and Sekhar, R. (2005) Spirit of the Forest: A Comic Book, New Delhi: Viveka Foundation, 36 pp.
- Adams W.M., Aveling R., Brockington D., Dickson B., Elliott J., Hutton J., Roe D., Vira, B.Wolmer, W. (2004) Biodiversity conservation and the eradication of poverty. Science, Volume 306, pp. 1146-1149.
- Vira, B. (2004) "Common Pool Resources: Current Status and Future Prospects," in T. Dyson, R. Cassen and L. Visaria (eds.) Twenty-first Century India: Population, Environment and Human Development, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp. 328-343.
- Vira, B., Iyer, R. and Cassen, R. (2004) "Water," in T. Dyson, R. Cassen and L. Visaria (eds.) Twenty-first Century India: Population, Environment and Human Development, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp. 312-327.
- Vira, B. and Vira, S. (2004) "India's Urban Environment: Current Knowledge and Future Possibilities", in T. Dyson, R. Cassen and L. Visaria (eds.) Twenty-first Century India: Population, Environment and Human Development, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp. 292-311.
- Adams, W., Brockington, D., Dyson, J. and Vira, B. (2003) "Managing Tragedies: Understanding Conflict over Common Pool Resources", Science, Volume 302, pp.1915-6.
- Vira, B. (2002) "Trading with the Enemy? Examining North-South Perspectives in the Climate Change Debate." In D. W. Bromley and J. Paavola (eds.) Economics, Ethics and Environmental Policy: Contested Choices, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 164-180.
- Vira, B. (2001) "Claiming Legitimacy: Analysing Conflict in the Environmental Policy Process," Environment and Planning C, Volume 19, No. 5, pp. 637-650.
- Vira, B. and R. Jeffery (2001) (eds.) Analytical Issues in Participatory Natural Resource Management, London and New York: Palgrave (xiv, 245 pages).
- Jeffery, R. and B. Vira (2001) (eds.) Conflict and Cooperation in Participatory Natural Resource Management, London and New York: Palgrave (xvi, 246 pages).
- Vira, B. and R. Jeffery (2001) "Introduction: Analytical Issues in Participatory Natural Resource Management," in B. Vira and R. Jeffery (eds.) Analytical Issues in Participatory Natural Resource Management, London and New York: Palgrave, pp.1-16.
- Jeffery, R. and B. Vira (2001) "Introduction," in R. Jeffery and B. Vira (eds.) Conflict and Cooperation in Participatory Natural Resource Management, London and New York: Palgrave, pp. 1-15.
- Vira, B. (1999) "Analytical Tools for Assessing Institutional Pluralism in Forestry," in J. Anderson (ed.) Pluralism and Sustainable Forestry and Rural Development, Rome: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, pp. 97-113.
- Vira, B. (1999) "Implementing Joint Forest Management in the Field: Towards an Understanding of the Community-Bureaucracy Interface," in R. Jeffery and N. Sundar (eds.) A New Moral Economy for India's Forests? New Delhi: Sage, pp. 254-275.
- Vira, B. (1999) "Property Rights: Clarifying the Concepts," in D. A. Posey (ed.) Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity, London: Intermediate Technology Publications (and United Nations Environment Programme), pp. 517-520.
- Vira, B., O. Dubois, S. E. Daniels and G. B. Walker (1998) "Institutional Pluralism in Forestry: Considerations of Analytical and Operational Tools," Unasylva, Volume 49, No. 194, pp. 35-42.
- Vira, B. (1998) "Environmental Regulation and Economic Deregulation: Is There a Conflict?" in G. Parry, A. Qureshi and H. Steiner (eds.) The Legal and Moral Aspects of International Trade: Freedom and Trade Volume III. London: Routledge, pp. 150-165.
- Vira, B. (1997) "The Political Coase Theorem: Identifying Differences between Neoclassical and Critical Institutionalism," Journal of Economic Issues, Volume XXXI, No. 3, pp. 761-779.
- Geographical Tripos (Undergraduate level)
- MPhil in Environment and Development
|Name||Title of thesis/research area||Results|
|Ritu Kanotra||Cooperation and conflict in environmental governance: waste management and regulation in India||In progress|
|Arshiya Bose||Incentive-driven approaches to biodiversity conservation in India||In progress|
|Girija Godbole||Relationships between women and land in rural society in western India||In progress|
|Ritika Kapur||Role of non-state actors in conservation in India||In progress|
|Rohini Chaturvedi||Federalism and forest policy in India||In progress|
|Tatiana Thieme||Youth entrepreneurship, urban poverty and waste: whose business and whose politics?||In progress|
|Heather Bedi Plumridge||Contesting Land, Uneven Development, and Privilege: Social Movement Resistance to Special Economic Zones in Goa, India||In progress|
|Sushil Saigal||Life and Afterlife of a Development Project: Origin, Evolution, and Outcomes of the Tree Growers' Cooperatives Project, India||In progress|
|Kim Beazley||Oustee Powerlessness, Pragmatism and Potential: Conservation-Induced Displacement in Central India||Awarded Ph.D.|
|Deepta Chopra||National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, India: towards an understanding of policy spaces||Awarded Ph.D.|
|Philippa Williams||'Being Muslim' : everyday lived realities in urban north India||Awarded Ph.D.|
|Chetan Kumar||The political ecology of deforestation in Meghalaya, India : role of 'meso-level' institutions||Awarded Ph.D.|
|Aditi Mukherjee||Political economy of groundwater markets in West Bengal : evolution, extent and impacts||Awarded Ph.D.|
|Smrithi Talwar||Empowerment in an authoritarian context? Community forestry in Myanmar (Burma) as a case study||Awarded Ph.D.|
|Jane Dyson||Faces of the forest : children's work in Uttaranchal, India||Awarded Ph.D.|
|Murat Arsel||Risking development or development risks? : probing the environmental dilemmas of Turkish modernisation||Awarded Ph.D.|
|Jo Woodman||Between bureaucrats and beneficiaries: the implementation of ecodevelopement in Pench tiger reserves, India||Awarded Ph.D.|
|Kathryn Tovey||Institutional responses to the water needs of the urban poor: a study of collective action in Delhi slums, India||Awarded Ph.D.|
|Richard Perkins||Technology and environmental leapfrogging: three case-studies from India||Awarded Ph.D.|
|Kaveri Gill||Of poverty and markets: the political economy of informal waste recovery and plastic recycling in Delhi||Awarded Ph.D.|