Rina Agarwala

Rina Agarwala

Associate Professor; Director of Undergraduate Studies

PhD, Princeton University

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Curriculum Vitae

Prior to joining Johns Hopkins University, I worked on international development and gender issues at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in China, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India, and Women’s World Banking (WWB) in New York.  My undergraduate work was done at Cornell University (BA), where I studied economics and government.  I completed a Masters in Public Policy (MPP) at Harvard University, where I concentrated in political and economic development, and I completed my Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography at Princeton University.

I am interested in how vulnerable populations, particularly workers, assert their rights through social movements. My research has examined a range of working populations (including informal workers and migrant workers), workers’ identities (including class, gender, and caste), and worker industries (including construction, tobacco manufacturing, garment manufacturing, trash collection, domestic work, and agricultural labor). My first book, Informal Labor, Formal Politics and Dignifying Discontent in India (Cambridge University Press, 2013), examined alternative labor movements among informal workers and their relationship to the state in India.  My current book project examines how India’s emigrant workers abroad affect India’s development through migrant organizations; this project compares the effects of low-skilled Indian emigrants in the Gulf with high-skilled Indian emigrants to the U.S.

While my empirical research focuses on India, I am in involved in several networks to examine labor with a comparative lens in the global economy. My work on Indian diaspora organizations in the U.S. collaborated with colleagues examining diaspora groups from 8 other countries. My work on informal workers’ movements in construction and domestic work collaborated with colleagues examining parallel movements in 7 other countries. My work on labor’s use of legal empowerment in India and my work on informal work in India’s 21st century social contracts were each part of collaborative projects comparing country experiences through the United Nations. My co-edited volume, Whatever Happened to Class? Reflections from South Asia (Routledge Press, 2008), explores how class-based analysis can help us better understand the contemporary challenges faced by urban workers, agricultural workers, and middle classes in India and Pakistan. My co-edited volume, Gendering Struggles against Informal and Precarious Work (PPST, 2018), explores the role that gender plays in shaping informal workers’ movements in India, Mexico, South Korea, Canada, and the U.S. 

Currently, I am working on two new projects. One explores the role of informal work in capitalism historically and across countries to offer a revised theory of labor movements in the formal and informal economies. The second begins with the puzzling decline of female labor force participation in India to understand the role of gender across all classes in India’s contemporary economy.

  • 230.150 Issues in International Development
  • 230.318 State and Society in Modern India
  • 230.324 Gender & International Development
  • 230.362 Migration and Development
  • 230.625 Seminar on International Development

Agarwala, Rina. 2013. Informal Labor, Formal Politics and Dignified Discontent in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

*Winner, Outstanding Book Award, American Sociological Association (ASA), Sociology of Development Section, 2014

*Winner, Outstanding Book Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP), Global Division, 2014

*Winner, Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research and Book Publication, Johns Hopkins University, 2014

*Honorable Mention, Distinguished Scholarly Work Award, ASA, Labor and Labor Movement’s Section, 2014

Herring, Ronald and Rina Agarwala (eds.) 2008. Whatever Happened to Class? Reflections from South Asia. London: Routledge Press


Agarwala, Rina. 2020. “Capital, the Right, and a New Age for Labour Scholarship.” Global Labour Journal. Vol. 11, No. 3

Agarwala, Rina. 2019. “The Politics of India’s Reformed Labor Model.” In Business and Politics in India, Eds. Christophe Jaffrelot, Atul Kohli, and Kanta Murali. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 95-123.   

Agarwala, Rina. 2018. “From Theory to Praxis and Back to Theory Informal Workers’ Struggles against Capitalism and Patriarchy in India.” Political Power and Social Theory. Vol. 35, pp. 29-57.

Agarwala, Rina and Jennifer Jihye Chun. 2018. “Gendering Struggles against Informal and Precarious Work.” Political Power and Social Theory. Vol 35. pp. 1-28.

Agarwala, Rina. 2018. “The Development of Labor under Contemporary Capitalism,” Sociology of Development. Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 239-260.

Agarwala, Rina and Shiny Saha. 2018. “The Employment Relationship and Movement Strategies among Domestic Workers in India.” Critical Sociology. Vol 44, Issue 7/8. (on-line publication first)

Agarwala, Rina. 2018. “Using Legal Empowerment for Labour Rights in India.” Journal of Development Studies. Volume 55, Issue 3. (on-line publication first)

Agarwala, Rina. 2017. “Transnational Diaspora Organizations and India’s Development.” Routledge Handbook of the Indian Diaspora, eds. Radha Sarma Hegde and Ajaya Kumar Sahoo.  New York: Routledge. Pp. 104-116.

Agarwala, Rina. 2016. “A New 21st Century Social Contract Self-Employed Workers’ Movements in Garments and Trash Collection.” International Labor and Working Class History.

Chun, Jennifer Jihye and Rina Agarwala. 2016. “Global labour politics in informal and precarious jobs.” Handbook of the Sociology of Work and Employment, eds. Stephen Edgell, Heidi Gottfried, Edward Granter. Sage: London. pp. 634-650.

Agarwala, Rina. 2016. “Divine Development-Transnational Indian Religious Organizations in the United States and India.” International Migration Review.

Agarwala, Rina. 2015. “Tapping the Indian Diaspora for Indian Development,” in The State and the Grassroots: Immigrant Transnational Organizations in Four Continents. Alejandro Portes and Patricia Fernandez-Kelly (eds). Berghahn Press. New York. Pp. 84-110.

Agarwala, Rina. 2014. “Informal Workers' Struggles in Eight Countries,” in Brown Journal of World Affairs. Vol. XX, Issue 11, Spring/Summer, pp. 251-263.

Agarwala, Rina. 2013. “A Second Marriage? An Intersection of Marxism and Feminism among India’s Informal Workers.” Handbook on Gender in South Asia. Leela Fernandes (ed). UK: Routledge.

Agarwala, Rina. 2012. "The State and Labor in Transnational Activism- The Case of India." Journal of Industrial Relations. Vol. 54, Issue 4.

Agarwala, Rina and Emmanuel Teitelbaum. 2010. Trends in Funding for Dissertation Field Research- Why Do Political Science and Sociology Students Win So Few Awards?” Political Science and Politics. April, pp. 283-293. *Featured in Inside Higher Ed

Agarwala, Rina. 2009.An Economic Sociology of Informal Work The Case of India." Research in the Sociology of Work. Vol. 18, pp. 315-342.

Agarwala, Rina. 2008. Reshaping the Social Contract Emerging Relations Between the State and Informal Labor in India.” Theory and Society. Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 375-408.

Agarwala, Rina. 2007. “Resistance and Compliance in the Age of Globalization: Indian Women and Labor Organizations," in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Vol. 610, March, pp. 143-159.

Agarwala, Rina. 2006. “From Work to Welfare- A New Class Movement in India.” Critical Asian Studies. Vol. 38, No. 4, December, pp. 419-445.

Herring, Ronald and Rina Agarwala. 2006. “Introduction- Restoring Agency to Class- Puzzles from the SubcontinentCritical Asian Studies. Vol. 38, No. 4, December, pp. 323-357.

Agarwala, Rina and Scott M. Lynch. June 2006. “Refining the Measurement of Women's Autonomy- An International Application of a Multi-dimensional Construct." Social Forces, V. 84, No. 4, pp. 2077-2099.

Agarwala, Rina. 2002. “Working for Autonomy: Differentiating Women’s Work in India.” Indian Journal of Labour Economics, Vol. 45, No. 4, pp. 1369-1388.