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Nicolas Martin

Nicolas Martin, Prof. Dr.

  • Ausserordentlicher Professor für Moderne Indologie / Südasienwissenschaft
  • stellvertretender Institutsdirektor
+41 44 634 38 18
RAA G-30

Academic Biography

Professor Nicolas Martin completed both his BA and PhD at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). His PhD, finalized in 2009, was based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in rural Pakistan, focusing on the interplay of politics, patronage, and debt bondage. After completing his doctorate, he served as a teaching fellow at the LSE Anthropology Department until 2012. His extensive research during this period contributed to academic articles and a book discussing agrarian change, debt bondage, electoral politics, factionalism, violence, electoral fraud, and the relationship between Sufi Islam and landed power. In addition to authoring Politics, Landlords and Islam in Pakistan, published by Routledge in 2015, he also taught courses on economic anthropology, political and legal anthropology, ethnographic methods, and the interpretation of ethnographic texts.

In 2012, Professor Martin advanced to the role of Senior Research Fellow at the University College London Department of Anthropology. This transition followed the acquisition of research grants from the European Research Council (ERC) and Economic and Social Research (ESRC) by a team he was part of. These grants facilitated a study examining the growing connection between politics, crime, and business across South Asia. In 2013, his research journey led him to undertake fifteen months of fieldwork in an agrarian region of the Indian Punjab, further exploring the intersections of clientelistic politics, violence, and social inequality in rural Punjab.

In 2016, he joined the University of Zurich as Assistant Professor in the department of Indian studies. Two years later, he obtained a four-year SNSF grant for the project 'The Reproduction of Caste? Economic, political, and kinship strategies among Jats in Punjab' together with Dr. Clemence Jullien and further pursued in collaboration with Dr. Satendra Kumar. The project delves into questions about the continued influence of caste on social and political life and examines the impact of Dalit activism on existing power structures.  In addition to finalising a monograph on the topic of democracy and inequality in North India,  he is currently developing projects aiming to investigate migration processes from India to Europe and another to investigate channels for upward social mobility among Dalits in India.

At the University of Zurich, he has been teaching courses focusing on political, economic and social transformation in South Asia.  These include courses on democratic and electoral processes, the Indian economy and its institutions, kinship and gender, and on the transformation of caste and class. Since 2022, as a full Professor, Professor Martin is actively supervising PhDs on topics including electoral politics and welfare provision, debt and micro-credit, and social mobilization in South India.



Research Interests

Professor Martin’s research centres around two central themes. The first delves into questions about modernisation and nation-building and their impact on  caste and class hierarchies in rural South Asia. This includes an examination of inequality as a potential causal factor in explaining poverty. The second theme focuses on democracy and electoral politics and the extent to which these have contributed to eradicating poverty and inequality. In the future, Professor Martin plans to examine the processes of upward social mobility in the region and research how international migration both alters and reproduces power relations within India's diasporic communities.

Selected Publications

2022   ‘The Dominant Caste’, in S. Jodhka and J. Naudet (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Caste in Contemporary Times.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Javid, H. and Martin, N. 'Democracy and Discrimination: Comparing Caste-Based Politics in Indian and Pakistani Punjab.' In South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 43(1), 136-151.


'Enforcing political loyalties in local elections: an ethnographic account from Punjab.' In Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 58(1), 63-81.


Martin, N. and Picherit, D. 'Special issue: electoral fraud and manipulation in India and Pakistan.' In Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 58(1), 1-20.



‘Politics, Capital, and Land Grabs in Rural Punjab’ in The Wild East, Criminal Political Economies across South Asia, London: UCL Press.



‘Political Exclusion and Subordination of Scheduled Castes in Rural Malwa, Punjab.' In Jodhka, Surinder S.; Simpson, Edward(eds) India’s Villages in the 21st Century: Revisits and Revisions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 253-273.



Mafia Raj: The Rule of Bosses in South Asia (South Asia in Motion) by L. Michelutti et al. (eds.). Stanford University Press.



‘Corruption and Factionalism in Contemporary Punjab: An ethnographic account from rural Malwa.’ In Modern Asian Studies, 52(3), 942-970.



Martin, N. and Michelutti, L. ‘Protection Rackets and Party Machines.’ In Asian Journal of Social Science, 45(6), 693-723.



Politics, Landlords and Islam in Pakistan. Delhi & London: Routledge.



‘Rural Elites and the Limits of Scheduled Caste Assertiveness in the in rural Malwa, Punjab.’ In Economic and Political Weekly Volume L, No. 52.



‘The Dark Side of Patronage in the Pakistani Punjab.’ In A. Piliavski (ed) Patronage as the Politics of South Asia, Delhi: CUP.



‘Class, Patronage and Coercion in the Pakistani Punjab and in Swat.’ In M. Marsden and B. Hopkins (eds) Beyond Swat: History, Society and Economy along the Afghanistan-Pakistan Frontier, Columbia/Hurst.



‘The Dark Side of Political Society: Patronage and the Reproduction of Social Inequality.’ In Journal of Agrarian Change. Doi:10.1111/joac.12039.



‘The Political Economy of Bonded Labour in the Pakistani Punjab.’ In Contributions to Indian Sociology Volume 43, No.1 (February).

Fellowships, Awards



Principal Investigator, SNSF research project entitled 'The Reproduction of Caste?  Economic, political and kinship strategies among Jats in Punjab.'



Research Fellow, ERC Starting Grant Research Project (Project title: An anthropological investigation of muscular politics in South Asia - PI Lucia Michelutti (University College London). Project partners: the University of Oxford, University of Oslo, King's College (University of Cambridge) and DFID-India. Project starting date: 1st March 2012. Project duration: 48 months.



LSE Departmental Teaching Award



Firth Prize 2007/8 for Friday Morning Seminar paper ‘The Political Economy of Bonded Labour in the Pakistani Punjab’, Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics.