Michael Levien

Michael Levien

Associate Professor

PhD, University of California, Berkeley

Mergenthaler 433
Thursday, 10:00am-11:00am, Or By Appointment
Curriculum Vitae

I joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2013 after completing a PhD in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. My research focuses on India and seeks to advance a sociology of dispossession. I teach classes on social theory, international development, agrarian change, and dispossession. In 2014, I held a visiting professorship at the Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi.

My research agenda falls primarily within the fields of development sociology, political sociology, and agrarian political economy with a geographic focus on India. My research to date, culminating in my book Dispossession without Development (2018), has concentrated on demonstrating the significance of dispossession as a social relation, and examining its implications for inequality, economic development, and politics. I have also undertaken research on broader themes of agrarian transformations in the Global South and on the global politics of neoliberalism. While grounded in sociology, my research spans development studies, South Asia studies, and agrarian studies and brings me into interdisciplinary conversations with geographers, urban planners, anthropologists, political scientists, and historians. Going forward, I have begun two new book projects. The first attempts to understand the relationship between corruption and neoliberalism through a study of India’s “land mafia.” The second builds on comparative extensions from my book project to chart a sociology of dispossession.

  • 230.150 Issues in International Development
  • 230.213 Social Theory
  • 230.363 Sociology of Dispossession
  • 230.379 Undergraduate Research Seminar
  • 230.391 Theories of International Development
  • 230.395 Contemporary Social Theory
  • 230.602 Theories of Society
  • 230.647 Agrarian Change


Levien, Michael, Michael Watts, and Yan Hairong, eds. 2019. Agrarian Marxism. London: Routledge.

Levien, Michael. 2018. Dispossession Without Development: Land Grabs in Neoliberal India. New York: Oxford University Press.


Agarwal, Samantha and Michael Levien. 2019. “Dalits and Dispossession: A Comparison.” Journal of Contemporary Asia. Published online April 13.

Levien, Michael. 2017. “Gender and Land Grabs: A Comparative Analysis.” UN Women Discussion Paper Series. No. 15, July 2017: 1-27.

Levien, Michael. 2015. “Social Capital as Obstacle to Development: Brokering Land, Norms and Trust in Rural India.” World Development 74: 77-92.

Levien, Michael. 2015. “From Primitive Accumulation to Regimes of Dispossession: Theses on India’s Land Question.” Economic and Political Weekly 50(22): 146-157.

Madeleine Fairbairn, Jonathan Fox, S. Ryan Isakson, Michael Levien, Nancy Peluso, Shahra Razavi, Ian Scoones, and K. Sivaramakrishnan. 2014. “Introduction: New Directions in Agrarian Political Economy.” Journal of Peasant Studies 41(5): 653-666.

Levien, Michael. 2014. “From Primitive Accumulation to Regimes of Dispossession.” Revista Sociologia y Anthropologia 4(1): 25-53 (Portuguese, translation by Markus Hediger).

Levien, Michael. 2013. “The Politics of Dispossession: Theorizing India’s ‘Land Wars.’” Politics & Society 41(3): 351-394.

Levien, Michael. 2013. “Regimes of Dispossession: From Steel Towns to Special Economic Zones.” Development and Change 44(2): 381-407.

Levien, Michael and Marcel Paret. 2012. “A Second Double-Movement?: Polanyi and Shifting Global Opinions on Neoliberalism.” International Sociology 27(6): 724-744.

Levien, Michael. 2012. “The Land Question: Special Economic Zones and the Political Economy of Dispossession in India.” Journal of Peasant Studies 39 (3-4): 933-969.

Levien, Michael. 2011. “Special Economic Zones and Accumulation by Dispossession in India.” Journal of Agrarian Change 11(4): 454-483.

Levien, Michael. 2011. “Rationalising Dispossession: The Land Acquisition and Resettlement Bills.” Economic and Political Weekly 46(11): 66-71.

Levien, Michael. 2007. “India’s Double Movement: Polanyi and the National Alliance of People’s Movements.”  Berkeley Journal of Sociology 51: 119-149.

India Land in Demand, Financial Times, July 7, 2015
How Congress got corporates addicted to govts buying land for them, First Post, May 28,2015
The Wrong Land War, Business Standard, May 20,2015