Kiran Asher, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of International Development and Social Change
Department of International Development, Community, and Environment
Worcester, MA 01610-1477
Phone: (508) 421-3823 phone
Kirran Asher, Associate Professor of International Development and Social Change, and Women’s and Gender Studies is an interdisciplinary scholar with training in the natural sciences (B. Sc. Life Sciences, St. Xavier's College, Bombay, 1987; Masters of Environmental Management, Resource Ecology, Duke University, Durham, NC 1990) and social sciences (Ph.D. Political Science, Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies, University of Florida, 1998). Before arriving at Clark in 2002, she taught at Mount Holyoke College, MA (1997-1998) and Bates College, ME (1998-2001), and was a Rockefeller postdoctoral fellow (2001-2002) at the Institute for Research on Women at Rutgers University, NJ. In Spring 2006, she was a research associate at the Five Colleges Women's Studies Research Center based at Mount Holyoke College.
She has carried out conservation-related fieldwork in India, China, the USA, and various Latin American countries including Colombia, and has worked as a biodiversity consultant for the World Bank, and as a gender consultant for several Colombian NGOs. More recently, she did some unrenumerated gender consulting for CARE-USA.
Asher’s monograph “Black and Green: Afro-Colombians, Development and Nature in the Pacific Lowlands” (Duke University Press, 2009) is an ethnographic account of Afro-Colombian struggles for ethnic, territorial, and socioeconomic rights in the 1990s. Disrupting the notion that development and resistance are oppositional, Asher’s research shows how social movements and development processes constitute each other in uneven and paradoxical ways. Currently, she is working on two projects. One traces the complex and contradictory connections between biodiversity conservation and economic globalization, and how discourses about local, “marginalized” groups such as third world women and indigenous peoples figure in the lexicons of international development and the environment. Asher has received a Fulbright award to conduct research in India in 2009 to further this project. The second will explore Afro-Colombian women’s organizing after displacement and involuntary migration. This project is being conducted in conjunction with the “Social Movements, Civic Participation, and Democratic Innovation: Interrogating the Civil Society Agenda,” initiative at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Her interests in postcolonial, marxist, and feminist theories of power, nature/culture and politics also bear on her academic program building (she is the Coordinator of the IDSC MA Program, and was the Coordinator of the IDSC Undergraduate Major from 2002-2005) and teaching responsibilities. Considering theory-praxis boundaries spurious, she attempts to bring about social change by addressing issues of power related to gender, race, and historical location, wherever she finds them – in the scholarly literature, in the classroom, and in various academic and institutional settings. In her teaching she encourages students to ask insightful questions rather than seek simple solutions to complex problems.
Asher believes that professional relationships among faculty, staff and students are imperative in order to foster learning, critical inquiry, and mutual respect in the U.S. academy. Many students first learn to become professionals in college and/or graduate school. A professional relationship with your professors is a necessary, though not sufficient, condition to finding faculty mentors.With that in mind she has developed some guidelines/handouts to help students develop and recognize academic professionalism.
2009. Black and Green: Afro-Colombians, Development, and Nature in the Pacific Lowlands. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.
Co-authored with Diana Ojeda. 2009. "Producing Nature and Making the State: Ordenamiento Territorial in the Pacific Lowlands of Colombia." GeoForum vol. 40 (3): 292–302.
"Ser y Tener: Gender, Ethnicity and Development in the Pacific Lowlands of Colombia." Feminist Studies 33 (1): 11-37.
2004. ““Texts in Context”: Afro-Colombian Women’s Activism in the Pacific Lowlands of Colombia.” Feminist Review vol. 78: 1-18
2004. “Engenderando desenvolvimento e ethnicidade nas terras baixas do Pacífico colombiano” (Engendering Development and Ethnicity in the Pacific Lowlands of Colombia). Revista Estudos Feministas 12(1): 15-45.
[Engendering development and ethnicity in the Pacific lowlands of Colômbia. Rev. Estud. Fem. [online]. Jan./Apr. 2004, vol.12, no.1 [cited 01 December 2004], p.15-45.
2004. “Possibilities & Limits of Microfinance as a Development Strategy: A Conversation.” (with Veena Sampathkumar). Critical Half: (Annual Journal of Women for Women International) 2 (1): 8-13.
2000. “Mobilizing The Discourses Of Sustainable Economic Development And Biodiversity Conservation In The Pacific Lowlands Of Colombia.” Strategies: A Journal of Theory, Culture and Politics. 13 (1): 111-125.
1996. ¿Etnicidad de Género o Género Etnico? (Ethnic gender or gendered ethnicity?). Boletín de Antropología 10 (26): 9-26. Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín.
Co-author with Erach Bharucha. 1993. "Behaviour Patterns of the Blackbuck Antilope cervicapra under Suboptimal Habitat Conditions." Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 90 (3): 371-393.
Selected Conference and Workshop Presentations
April 25, 2008. W(h)ither Nature and Culture? The Trajectory of post-1990s Black Social Movements in Colombia. Paper presented at the “Interrogating the Civil Society Agenda” conference, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.
April 16-19, 2008. “General Notes on Marxist Approaches to Nature, Ecology, and the Environment.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), Boston, MA.
Sept 5-8, 2007. Organizer, Chair, and Presentator of Workshop on “Translocalities/Translocalidades: Feminist Politics of Translation in the Latin/a Américas,” and discussant on panel entitled “The Complex Intersections between Feminist and Postcolonial Theories: Challenges from Latin America.” XXVII International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, Montreal, Canada.
February 12, 2007. “Contesting Modernities, Constructing Traditions: Black Social Movements and Development in the Making in the Colombian Pacific Lowlands.” Invited paper at the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies (CLACLS) at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
May 5, 2006. Offered closing remarks at the “Translocalities/Translocalidades: Feminist Politics of Translation in the Latin/a Américas,” University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.
March 15-18, 2006. “"To know, to conserve and to use": Wedding biodiversity conservation and economic development.” Paper presented at the XXVI International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), San Juan, Puerto Rico.
September 2, 2005. Invited talk on addressing issues of ethnicity and gender in development projects directed at displaced populations or populations located in conflict zones in Colombia. Project Counseling Services, Bogotá.
Selected Fellowships and Grants
2009. Fulbright Indo-American Environmental Leadership Award.
2007 Faculty Development Fund Grant, Clark University
Spring 2006, Research Fellowship, Five College Women’s Studies Research Center, based at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA.
2001-2002, Rockefeller Postdoctoral Fellowship, Institute for Research on Women, The State University of New Jersey at Rutgers.
2000-2001, Bates College Women's Studies and Scientific Literacy Project Grant to coordinate reading and research group to discuss "Scientific Knowledge, Culture, and Political Economy in Latin America and the Caribbean".