Ajit Menon


Madras Institute of Development Studies 79, II Main Road, Gandhinagar, Adyar, Chennai 600020
Telephone: 0091-44-24412589 24411574 24420204 24419771; Extn: 316; Fax: 0091 - 44 - 24910872
E-mail: ajit@mids.ac.in

Academic Qualification

  • Ph.D, Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), University of Madras, 2001.
    Thesis: The Political Economy of Decentralized Forest Management: State, Communities and the Forest Question in Kolli Hills.
  • M.A. Rural Development, University of Sussex, U.K.,1990.
  • B.A. History and Political Science, Williams College, U.S.A., 1988.


  • Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), Chennai (September 2015 - To present).
  • Associate Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), Chennai (November 2006 - August 2015).
  • Fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development (CISED), Bangalore (June 2002- October 2006).
  • Project Associate at the Madras School of Economics (December 2000- May 2002).
  • Project Associate at Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), January 1997-November 2000.
  • Editorial Assistant for the journal Review of Development and Change, (M.I.D.S publication), January-September 1996.
  • Research Assistant at Madras Institute of Development Studies, October-December 1992.
  • Research Associate, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, February 1991-September 1992.

Research Interest

I am interested in the political economy of natural resource conflict/political ecology in the wider context of 'development'. Environmental discourses and environment policy, shaped by particular material practices and priorities, I believe are also social and political constructs that have differential impacts across social groups and economic classes. My research is primarily aimed at understanding how and when the environment becomes important and the contestations both material and ontological that underlie conflicts over the environment in general and the commons in particular. Forested landscapes in south India have provided the site for most of my research but I am increasingly interested in the political ecology of fisheries as well. The practice of interdisciplinarity is central to the study of the environment, hence my interest in collaborative research across disciplines and the epistemological challenges of such research.

Awards / Fellowships

  • Carson Fellow, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, September 2019-January 2020.
  • L.M. Singhvi Fellow, Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, October-December, 2012.
  • Visiting Fellow, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, October-December, 2012.
  • Visiting Fellow, Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'homme (FMSH), Paris, France under the Indo-France Cultural Exchange Programme of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, June-July 2008.
  • Indian Council of Social Science Research Doctoral Fellowship for undertaking Ph.D Research, January 1993-January 1997.
  • University Grants Commission - UGC JRF/Eligibility for Lectureship and Ph.D Research Fellowship in Rural Development, 1991.
  • Highest Honours in B.A. Political Science for Thesis on Ujamaa Socialism in Tanzania, Williams College, Massachusettes, U.S.A, 1988.


  1. Lele, S. and A. Menon (eds.). (2014). Democratizing Forest Governance in India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi.
  2. Menon, A., P. Singh; E. Shah, S. Lele, S. Paranjape and K.J. Joy, K (2007). Community-based Natural Resource Management: Issues and Cases from South Asia, Sage, New Delhi.

Journal Articles / Book Chapters

  1. Menon, A. (2019 forthcoming). Colonial Constructions of 'Fields' and 'Forests' in the Kolli Hills, in V. Damodaran and R. D'Souza (eds.), Commonwealth Forestry and Environmental History: Empire, Forests and Colonial Environments in Africa, the Caribbean, South Asia and New Zealand. Primus Books: New Delhi.
  2. Menon, A. and M. Karthik. (2019). Genealogies and Politics of Belonging: Nature and Conservation in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu, Conservation and Society, 17(2), pp. 195-203.
  3. Menon, A., M. Sowman and M. Bavinck. (2018). Rethinking Capitalist Transformation of Fisheries in South Africa and India, Ecology and Society, 23(4): 27.
  4. Vijayabaskar, M. and Ajit Menon. (2018). Dispossession by Neglect: Agricultural Land Sales in Southern India, Journal of Agrarian Change, 18(3), pp. 571-587.
  5. A Menon and N. Rai. (2017). Putting a Price on Tiger Reserves: Creating Conservation Value or Green Grabbing?, Economic and Political Weekly, 52(52), pp. 23-26.
  6. M. Vijayabaskar and A. Menon. (2017). Peripheral Agriculture? Macro and Micro Dynamics of Land Sales and Land Use changes in the 'Rural' Economy of Kancheepuram, in R. Nagaraj and S. Motiram (eds.), Political Economy of Contemporary India, New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, pp. 205-229.
  7. Menon, A. and M. Karthik. (2017). Beyond Human Exceptionalism: Political Ecology and the Non-Human World, Geoforum, 79, pp. 90-92.
  8. Stephen, J. and A. Menon. (2016). 'Fluid Territories: Rethinking State Territorialisation in Palk Bay, South Asia', Norwegian Journal of Geography, 70(5), pp. 263-175.
  9. Karthik, M. and A. Menon. (2016). 'Blurred Boundaries: Identities and Rights in the Forested Landscapes of Gudalur, Tamil Nadu', Economic and Political Weekly, 51(10), pp. 43-50.
  10. Menon, A., M. Bavinck, J. Stephen and R. Manimohan. (2016). 'The Political Ecology of Palk Bay Fisheries: Geographies of Capital, Fisher Conflict, Ethnicity and Nation-State', Antipode, 48(2) pp. 393-411.
  11. Menon, A. (2015). 'The Godavarman Judgment: Erasing the Plurality of Land Use in Gudalur, Tamil Nadu', in J.M. Bavinck and A. Jyotishi (eds.), Conflicts, Negotiations and Natural Resource Management: A Legal Pluralism Perspective from South and Southeast Asia, Routledge: New Delhi.
  12. Menon, A., V. Lobo and S. Lele. (2014). 'The Commons and Rural Livelihoods: Shifting Dependencies and Supra-Local Pressures', in S. Lele and A. Menon (eds.), Democratizing Forest Governance in India, Oxford University Press: New Delhi, pp. 376-401.
  13. Bavinck, M., M. Sowman and A. Menon. (2014) 'Theorizing Participatory Governance in Contexts of Legal Pluralism -A Conceptual Reconnaisance of Fishing Conflicts and their Resolution', in M. Bavinck, L. Pelligrini and E. Mostert (eds.), Conflict Over Natural Resources in the Global South: Conceptual Approaches, CRS Press (Taylor and Francis Group): Boca Raton.
  14. Menon, A., C. Hinnewinkel and S. Guillerme. (2013). 'Denuded Forests, Wooded Estates: Statemaking in a Janmam Area of Tamil Nadu, India', Indian Economic Social History Review, 50(4), pp. 449-471.
  15. Stephen, J., A. Menon, J. Scholtens and J.M. Bavinck (2013). 'Transboundary Dialogues and the Politics of Scale in Palk Bay Fisheries: Brothers at Sea?, South Asia Research, 33(2), pp. 141-161.
  16. Guillerme, S., B.M. Kumar, A. Menon, C. Hinnewinkel, E. Maire and A.V. Santhoshkumar (2011). 'Impacts of Public Policies and Farmer Preferences on Agroforestry Practices in Kerala, India, Environmental Management, 44, pp. 351-364.
  17. L l , S., I. Patil, S. Badiger, A. Menon and R. Kumar (2011). 'Forests, Hydrological Services, and Agricultural Income: A Case Study from Mysore District of the Western Ghats of India", in M. N. Murty, P. Shyamsundar and E. Haq (eds.), Environmental Valuation in South Asia, Cambridge University Press: New Delhi.
  18. Taghioff, D. and A. Menon, (2010). 'On Mudumalai Tiger Reserve', Economic and Political Weekly, 45(52), pp. 83-84.
  19. Taghioff, D. and A. Menon, (2010). 'Can A Tiger Change Its Stripes': The Politics of Conservation as Translated in Mudumalai', Economic and Political Weekly, 45(28), pp. 69-76.
  20. Menon, A., C. Hinnewinkel, C. Garcia, S. Guillerme, N. Rai and S. Krishnan (2009). 'Competing Visions: Domestic Forests, Politicsand Forest Policy in the Central Western Ghats of South India', Small-scale Forestry, 8(4), pp. 515-527.
  21. Menon, A., S. Karuppiah and J. Stephen (2008). 'Reconfiguring the Coast', Economic and Political Weekly, 43(16), pp. 35-38
  22. Menon, A. (2008). 'Situating Law: The Political Economy of Environment and Development in India', in C. Eberhard (ed.), Law, Land Use and the Environment: Afro-Indian Dialogues, IFP: Pondicherry, pp. 363-386.
  23. Menon, A. and I. Patil (2007). 'Kudregundi Halla Tank: Conflict Over Seepage Water and Competing Needs', in K.J. Joy, S. Paranjape, B. Gujja, V. Goud and S. Vispute (eds.), Water Conflicts in India: A Million Revolts in the Making, Routledge: New Delhi, pp. 276-280.
  24. Menon, A. (2007). 'Engaging with the Law on Adivasi Rights', Economic and Political Weekly, 42 (24), pp. 2239-2242.
  25. Kiran Kumar, A K; A. Menon and I. Patil (2006). 'Methodological Challenges of Social Science Research on Land Use Change and Watershed Services: Insights from the Western Ghats', in J. Krishnaswamy, S. Lele and R. Jayakumar (eds.), Hydrology and Watershed Services of the Western Ghats, India: Effects of Land Cover Change, Tata McGraw-Hill: Bangalore, pp. 249-264.
  26. Menon, A. and A. Vadivelu, (2006). 'Common Property Resources in Different Agro-climatic Landscapes in India', Conservation and Society, 4(1), pp. 132-154.
  27. Menon, A. (2006). 'The Making of Environmental Policy and Legislation in India and the Construction of Social Nature', Economic and Political Weekly, 41(3), pp. 188-193.
  28. Lele, S. and A. Menon (2005). 'Draft NEP: A Flawed Vision', Seminar, 547.
  29. Menon, A. (2005). 'Where are the Forests? Legal Pluralism and Land Use Change in the Kolli Hills', Indian Socio-Legal Journal, 31 (special issue on legal pluralism), pp. 11-26.
  30. Menon, A. (2004). 'Colonial Constructions of "Agrarian Fields" and "Forests" in the Kolli Hills', Indian Economic and Social History Review, 41(3), pp. 317-337.
  31. Menon, A (2003). 'Forests, Law and Land Use in the Kolli Hills, India' in R. Pradhan (ed.), Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law in Social, Economic and Political Development, ICNEC: Kathmandu, pp. 211-226.
  32. Menon, A. (1999). 'Common Property Studies and the Limits to Equity: Some Conceptual Concerns and Possibilities', Review of Development and Change, 4(1), pp. 51-70.
  33. Menon, A. and V. Saravanan (1996). 'Displacement and Rehabilitation Policies: The Case of the Kolli Hills Hydro-Electric Project', Economic and Political Weekly, 31(43), pp. 2854-55.
  34. Menon, A. (1995). 'Constructing the Local: Decentralising Forest Management', Economic and Political Weekly, 30(35), pp. 2110-2111.

Other Publications

  1. M. Vijayabaskar and A. Menon. (2016). Dispossession by Neglect: Agricultural Land Sales in the Periphery of Chennai. MIDS Working Paper No. 223, July 2016.
  2. Menon, A. and M. Karthik. (2017). Sedentarising Conservation: The Politics of Belonging and Rootedness in Gudalur, Nilgiris. MIDS Working Paper No. 225, January 2017.
  3. Menon, A and C.R. Bijoy. (2014). 'Tribal Development in India: The Limits to Law, Democracy and Governance', Yojana, January, pp. 9-12.
  4. Scholtens, J., J. Stephen and A. Menon. (2013). 'Between the Devil and the Not-So-Deep Blue Sea: Asymmetrical Power in the Indo-Sri Lankan Fisheries Conflict', The Broker (online), November 6.
  5. Menon, A. and B. Viswanathan (2009). 'From Fisheries Development to Coastal Development in Tamil Nadu: Possible Implications for Fisher Well-being', ESPA Briefing Paper, IDS, University of Sussex.
  6. Lele, S., I. Patil, S. Badiger, A. Menon and R. Kumar. (2008). 'The Economic Impact of Forest Hydrological Services on Local Communities: A Case Study from the Western Ghats of India', SANDEE Working Paper, W.P. No. 36-08.
  7. Lele, S. and Menon, A (2005). 'Neo-liberal Verbiage', Down to Earth, 13(16), January 15.
  8. Menon, A. (2005) 'NEP 2004: Market Fundamentalism' (editorial), Economic and Political Weekly, 40(2), January 8.
  9. Menon, A. and Lele, S (2003). 'Critiquing the Commons: Missing the Woods for the Trees?', The Common Property Resource Digest, No. 64, March.
  10. Menon, A. (1995). 'American Scholars and South Asian Studies', Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 30, No. 49, December 2.
  11. Menon, A. (1994). 'Institutions and Economic Analysis: Theoretical Considerations for Natural Resource Management', M.I.D.S. Working Paper, No. 119.
  12. Menon, A. (1993). 'Decentralising the Provision of Public Services: Exnora's Efforts at Garbage Collection in Madras', M.I.D.S. Bulletin, January.


  • Guest Faculty, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, August-November, 2013 (Taught a course on Environment and Society for the integrated Masters Programme in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences).
  • Visiting Faculty, Ambedkar University Delhi, 2009-2012 (Taught in four courses in the M.A. in Environment and Development: (1) Political and Social Thought on the Environment, (2) Law, Governance and Institutions, (3) Contemporary Environmental Issues and (4) Social and Political Ecology.
  • Visiting Faculty, Institute of Ocean Management, Anna University, Chennai, 2007-2009 (Taught a course on Socio-Economic Dimensions of Coastal Zone Management in the MSc in Coastal Management).
  • Teaching a module on common property resources and political ecology within the MIDS PhD programme.

Ph.D Supervision

Currently Guiding

  • Preetha, K.V., Madras Institute of Development Studies, Topic: The Political Ecology of a Proposed Ultra Mega Power Project.
  • Surabi, G., Madras Institute of Development Studies, Topic: Contract Farming in Tamil Nadu.
  • Chandrasekar, D. Madras Institute of Development Studies, Topic: Dalits and Social Capital.
  • Rahul Reghu, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Topic: The Politics of Tribal Development in Kerala.
  • Rituparna Bohra, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Topic: The Political Ecology of Ecotourism in Assam.
  • Aarthi Sridhar, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Topic: History of Fisheries Science Practices in India: From the Colonial to the Contemporary (Co-Supervisor).
  • Tara Lawrence, University of Tromso (Arctic University of Norway), Topic: Ecological and Social Transformations of Coastal India: A Trawl Fisheries PerEcological and social transformations of coastal India – a Trawl Fisheries Perspective from Cuddalore and Palghar districts in coastal India (Co-Supervisor).


  • Johny Stephen, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Topic: Fishing for Space: An Analysis into the the Socio-spatial Relations of Indian Trawl Fishers in the Context of Transboundary Fishing in the Palk Bay (co-supervisor).
  • Oliver Schultz, University of Cape Town, South Africa, Topic: Power and Democracy in Coastal and Fisheries Governance on the Cape Peninsula (co-supervisor).


  • Managing Editor, Review of Development and Change.
  • Associate Editor, Conservation and Society.
  • Associate Editor, Martime Studies.
  • Member, International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC).
  • Member, Commission on Folk Law and Legal Pluralism.
  • Member, International Association for Ecological Economics.

Available on request

79, Second Main Road, Gandhinagar, Adyar, Chennai - 600020, Tamil Nadu, INDIA
Phone: 0091-44-24412589 24411574 24420204 24419771. Fax: 0091-44-24910872. E-mail: admin@mids.ac.in

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