Poulami Roychowdhury

Associate Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs
Areas of Expertise Criminal Justice, Gender, Human Rights, Law Enforcement & Policing, Political Economy, Social Movements
Areas of Interest Law, Social Movements, Gender, Political Economy, Violence


Poulami Roychowdhury is an Associate Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs at the Watson Institute. She is jointly appointed in the Department of Sociology and a member of the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies.
Roychowdhury's research and teaching focus on the relationship between politics and law, with special attention to issues concerning gender-based violence. Roychowdhury’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, the American Institute for Indian Studies, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Fonds de Recherche du Québec. 
Roychowdhury's writing can be found in a range of journals, including the American Journal of Sociology, Feminist Studies, Gender & Society, Signs, and Social Problems. Her recent book, "Capable Women, Incapable States: Negotiating Violence and Rights in India," is available through Oxford University Press.
Roychowdhury’s research has won awards from the American Sociological Association, the Eastern Sociological Society, the Law and Society Association, and the Society for the Study of Social Problems. 
She is an Associate Editor at Social Politics and an editorial board member of the American Journal of Sociology, Gender & Society, Law & Social Inquiry, and Sociological Theory.


How do states regulate violence and why do state officials use certain strategies over others? When does violence inspire political mobilization? How does mobilization impact gender inequality and people’s abilities to acquire justice? These are some of the questions that motivate Professor Roychowdhury’s academic work.

Professor Roychowdhury’s award-winning book, "Capable Women, Incapable States: Negotiating Violence and Rights in India," was published by Oxford University Press in 2021. Through ethnographic and interview-based accounts of survivors, civil society groups, and law enforcement personnel, this book develops a theoretical framework for understanding how collective action influences law enforcement decision-making and women’s access to justice.

Currently, Dr. Roychowdhury is working on three separate projects. The first examines the politics of sexual harassment in India, tracing the evolution of new policing practices around street harassment. The second focuses on the transnational politics of reproductive justice, asking how women respond to legal challenges against abortion. The third is an interdisciplinary, collaborative initiative that traces the inequality of COVID-19 in India.



2021. Capable Women, Incapable States: Negotiating Violence and Rights in India. New York: Oxford University Press. Forthcoming

2023. Pandemic Inequality: Citizens, States, and Covid 19 in India, with Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner (UVA). Under contract with Oxford University Press.


2022. “Between Women and the State: Rights Brokers and Capital Accumulation in West Bengal.” Toward a Sociology of South Asia: Rethinking Politics, Labor, and Culture. Eds. Smitha Radhakrishnan and Gowri Vijayakumar. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

2021. “Incorporation: Governing Gendered Violence in a State of Disempowerment.” American Journal of Sociology, 124(4): 852-888. 2019. “Illicit Justice: Aspirational-Strategic Subjects and the Political Economy of Domestic Violence.” Law & Social Inquiry, 44(1): 1-24.

2016. “Desire, Rights, Entitlements: Organizational Strategies in the War on Violence.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 41(4): 793-820.


SOCI 2330 States, Power, Politics