Aakash Solanki | PhD Candidate in Anthropology and South Asian Studies at University of Toronto

Aakash Solanki


PhD Candidate in Anthropology and South Asian Studies at University of Toronto


Aakash Solanki a PhD candidate in Anthropology and South Asian studies at the University of Toronto. He is broadly interested in the genealogical study of states, statistics (stats), and computing. In the past, he has worked on the collection, classification, management of information and its politics in colonial India. In addition to prior training in computer science, he has worked in government agencies both in the US and India, on data science projects in education, health, and skill development at the city, state, as well as the federal level. His research is funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. He has previously published in the journal South Asia and is a Contributing Editor to the journal Cultural Anthropology. He runs an interdisciplinary seminar series on Development at University of Toronto.


“Untidy Data: Spreadsheet Practices in the Indian Bureaucracy.” In Lives of Data: Essays on Computational Cultures from India, edited by Sandeep Mertia. Theory on Demand 39. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

A small book chapter I contributed to a vibrant and multi-disciplinary volume on data cultures from India. The volume brings together pracitioners and researchers working on data science projects in India, both contemporaneous as well as historical. My piece talks about the work of spreadsheet processing in an India bureaucracy from the lens of statistical data processing, as well as media technologies, and how media technologies –old and new– intertwine to produce work practices in bureaucracies.

Management of Performance and Performance of Management: Getting to Work on Time in the Indian Bureaucracy, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 42:3, 588-605

This paper departs from the analytic lens of citizen versus the state and brings to attention intra-bureaucratic interactions in the wake of Aadhaar by focusing on the ongoing implementation of an Aadhaar Enabled Biometric Attendance System (AEBAS). Based on ethnographic research in a North Indian state, I show how AEBAS’ goals of performance evaluation and management were partially, and unintentionally, circumvented by staff members, in part owing to the socio-technical design of the system. I argue that an unintended consequence of projects using digital media technologies to quantify and manage performance is their tendency to produce a performance of management, and that scholars and activists must pay attention to such disjunctures inherent in projects of command and control.

w/Tewari.S, Going Ethno in the Indian Bureaucracy, Ethnographic Praxis inIndustry Conference Proceedings 2016(1): 501–21.

A case study contributed to the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry conference on how to assess and improve digital literacy, and state capacity in government agencies in India using anthropological research on state, governance, and bureaucracy.

“Suddenly, Statistics?.” Member Voices, Fieldsights, May 18.

A piece I contributed to the Academic Precarity in American Anthropology: A Forum by Cultural Anthropology where I wonder about the dissonance between anthropology’s general suspicion of numbers and a sudden push for statistics in addressing the problem of precarity in american anthropology.