Awadhendra Sharan


Awadhendra Sharan works at the intersection of urban and environmental studies. His research aims to develop an understanding of the urban as constituted through socio-ecological processes, concerning resource use, the making of waste and pollution, the quest for purity of air and water, spatial planning, etc., all of these being mediated by relations of power. In his book In the City, Out of Place: Nuisance, Pollution and Dwelling in Delhi, c. 1850-2000 (OUP, 2014) Sharan offers a history of Delhi as regards the supply of clean water, abating of ‘nuisances’ such as those caused by traditional trades, river pollution, notions of congestion and approaches to ‘the slum question’, and the nature and extent of industrial pollution, concluding with reflections on how these issues continue to be debated and regulated in contemporary Delhi. In a more recent work Dust and Smoke: Air Pollution and Colonial Urbanism, India, c.1860-c.1940 (Orient BlackSwan, 2020) Sharan enquires into the history of air pollution in colonial cities, in particular the question of industrial and domestic smoke in Bombay and Calcutta. Different notions of waste and their relation to pollution, anchored in aesthetic preferences, notions of economic efficiency, utilitarian conservation of resources, and public health are highlighted. The regulation of smoke by Smoke Nuisances Commissions, the nature of the expertise on offer, the choice of fuels, technological interventions to ensure better combustion, design of chimneys and flues to secure adequate dispersal, and the issue of domestic smoke are enquired into. The book concludes with reflections on the limits of the colonial imaginary in fashioning India’s atmospheric modernity.

Sharan’s ongoing research intrests are in the making of domestic environments in Indian cities and in the history of river Ganges during the colonial period.

Sharan serves on the International Advisory Board of the journal Urbanization. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of Delhi based NGO Ankur: Alternatives in Education.

Email: director(at), sharan(at)

Select Publications (Click to Read)

A river and the riverfront: Delhi’s Yamuna as an in-between space

The Ganges as an Urban Sink

One Air, Two Interventions: Delhi in the Age of Environment