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Photograph of Malini Ranganathan

Malini Ranganathan Assoc Professor School of International Service

Send email to Malini Ranganathan
SIS - School of International Service
SIS - 301
Prof. Ranganathan is on sabbatical during the 2021-2022 academic year and will not be teaching courses or holding office hours during that time.
Additional Positions at AU
Faculty Advisor and Affiliate, Antiracist Research and Policy Center
Faculty Fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Center, School of Public Affairs
Faculty Affiliate, Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies
PhD, University of California, Berkeley


A critical geographer by training, Dr. Ranganathan researches environmental casteism and environmental racism in urban contexts, what she refers to as "environmental unfreedoms." Specifically, she studies the effects of caste supremacy and racialization on segregated housing, water and sanitation access, and flood and climate change vulnerability. She works on both India and the U.S. She is currently working on a collaborative book project with activists based in Bengaluru/Bangalore, India, Anticaste Urban Ecologies: Land, Labor, and Environmental Justice in Bengaluru. The book studies how the interlocking of brahminism, corporate power, and Hindutva neoliberalism reproduce caste-based segregation and environmental unfreedoms. In it, they consider the potential for legal and anticaste activism to disrupt injustices perpetuated by caste and capitalist power. She is also a recipient of an American Council of Learned Societies-Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant for a collaborative book forthcoming with Cornell University Press's Land Series, Corruption Plots: Stories, Ethics, and Publics of the Late Capitalist City. The book weaves together literary analysis and critical geography to argue that rather than being a fixed set of practices relating to graft and bribery, "corruption" is a slippery narrative used by different caste, class, and racial groups to call attention to the ethics of rapid urban change under late capitalism. While typically used by the middle classes to denigrate poorer groups and political leaders, "corruption talk" is also used by slum residents and activists to name systemic inequality, "land grabs," and nefarious collusions between the state and private spheres, regardless of their legality.

Finally, Dr. Ranganathan investigates environmental racism, climate justice, and the imperatives of abolition and an ethics of care in American cities. Her collaborative work on abolitionist climate justice in Washington, DC was featured on NPR. Most recently, she is part of a team that was awarded a $15 million National Science Foundation grant for RECIPES, a new project that promotes racially equitable urban and regional food systems, and investigates the causes of food surplus and waste in the U.S. Dr. Ranganathan previously directed AU's Antiracist Research and Policy Center and stays on as a faculty advisor for the Center, leading initiatives related to environmental and racial equity. For an overview of her transnational approach to research and teaching, stream this podcast. Dr. Ranganathan was recognized with the "SIS Scholar Teacher of the Year" award in 2018 and the "SIS Outstanding Contribution to Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" award in 2020. In 2021, she won the American University "Faculty Award for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion." Please visit her website to learn more about her research ethics, methodology, and positionality.

Her research is published in Environmental Justice, Ethnic and Racial Studies, The Lancet - Global Health, The Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Progress in Human Geography, Environment and Planning: A (Economy and Society), Capitalism Nature Socialism, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Geography, and Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography, among other journals. Her scholarship also appears in public venues such as e-Flux Architecture, Society and Space, and Black Perspectives. She serves on the editorial boards of Antipode, The Annals of the American Association of Geographers, and Environment and Planning: D (Society and Space). Previously, Dr Ranganathan was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Geography at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and has had research positions at TERI in New Delhi, ENDA-Tiers Monde in Dakar, and the Asian Development Bank in Manila. At SIS, Dr Ranganathan teaches SISU 250 (Environmental Sustainability and Global Health), SISU 349 (Global Cities, Justice, and the Environment), and SIS 620 (Environmental Justice).


Fall 2021

  • SIS-899 Doctoral Dissertation

Spring 2022

  • SIS-899 Doctoral Dissertation

Partnerships & Affiliations

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Selected Publications

Selected Recent Publications Only

Professional Presentations

INVITED TALKS (only recent)

  • 2021. "Abolition and Climate Justice in Transnational Perspective." Invited to the "Abolitionist and Emancipatory Futures: Antiracist Struggles and Climate Justice" panel, part of the Global Black Lives Matter Series at the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • 2019. "Towards an Anticaste and Abolitionist Epistemology for Environmental Justice in Urban India". Invited to give the keynote lecture at the "Urban Climates: Power, Development, and Environment in South Asia" conference, Dartmouth College.
  • 2019. "The Environment as Freedom: Racial Capitalism and Environmental Justice". Invited to speak at the Mellon Research Initiative in Racial Capitalism at the University of California, Davis.
  • 2019. "Racial Liberalism and Environmental Racism in Flint, MI". Invited to speak at the University of Michigan RacismLab.
  • 2019. "The Environment as Freedom: Decolonizing Urban Property, Reimagining Justice". Invited to give the annual honorary John Treacy Memorial Lecture (voted on as a "renowned pre-tenure scholar" by Geography graduate students) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
  • 2018. "Unauthorized Urbanism: Empire and Property in the Ecological Present". Invited to speak at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


  • 2020. "Anticaste Ecological Politics", organized by Suraj Yengde for Dialogics
  • 2019. "An Ethics of Antiracism, Abolitionism, and Care in Urban Climate Justice", Urban Affairs Association Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, April 26.
  • 2019. "Organizing in Chocolate City: Race, Planning, and Social Justice in Washington, DC", Panelist, American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, April 7.
  • 2019. "Methodologies for Studying Racial Capitalism", Panelist, American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, Washington, DC April 7.
  • 2019. "Author Meets Comrades: Rosalind Fredericks' Garbage Citizenship", Panelist American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, April 6
  • 2019. Discussant, Urban Geography keynote lecture (given by Deborah Cowen), April 5.
  • 2019. "Racial Regimes of Property I, II, III, and IV" (Organizer with Anne Bonds and Introducer), American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, April 4.


Professional Services

Grants and Sponsored Research

Research Interests

Ambedkarism, Periyarism, anticaste theory, environmental justice, political ecology, critical development studies, decolonial theory, critical race theory, feminist theory, the Black radical tradition, discourse analysis, ethnography, critical mapping and GIS.

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • 2021. Recipient, American University Faculty Award for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • 2020. Recipient, SIS Outstanding Contributions to Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion  Award
  • 2018. Co-recipient, SIS Scholar-Teacher of the Year Award
  • 2011-2013. Post-Doctoral Fellow, Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy (SDEP), Department of Geography and Beckman Institute, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
  • 2009-2010. Chancellor’s Dissertation-Year Fellowship in the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 2007-2008. John L. Simpson Memorial Research Fellowship in International and Comparative Studies, University of California, Berkeley.

AU Experts

Area of Expertise

Environmental racism in the U.S., antiracism, climate justice, environmental justice, segregation, environmental politics in India

Additional Information

Malini Ranganathan is an urban geographer and a scholar of environmental racism, environmental justice, and climate justice. Her research focuses on how the history of segregation and property law shapes environmental inequalities related to water, housing, and climate change vulnerability in India and the U.S. She is the author of several academic journal articles and she is currently working on two books related to urban inequality, environmental justice and real estate politics. Her work appears in media and scholarly outlets such as WAMU, Vox, Black Perspectives, and Society and Space.

For the Media

To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

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