Prof. Dr. Ursula Rao

Prof. Dr. Ursula Rao

Adjunct Professor

Fakultät für Geschichte, Kunst- und Regionalwissenschaften
Schillerstraße 6
04109 Leipzig


Ursula Rao is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Leipzig. Her research explores questions of politics and governance in India, with a specific focus on urban dynamics. Currently, she is involved in several research projects about the social consequences of biometric technology and e-governance. How do the new tools and techniques of governing impact human relations and state-citizens interactions? Other fields of interests include question of urban citizenship and social justice, as well as journalistic practices, ritual theory and urban Hinduism.

Before joining the University of Leipzig Ursula Rao held academic positions at the University of Heidelberg (1999-2002), the University of Halle (2002-2006) and the University of New South Wales, Sydney (2007-2012).

Professional career

  • 01/2008 - 09/2012
    Associate Professor of Sociology & Anthropology, School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney
  • 04/2007 - 12/2010
    Senior Lecturer in Sociology & Anthropology, School of Social Sciences and International Studies, University of New South Wales, Sydney
  • 09/2002 - 03/2007
    Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, University Halle


  • 09/1994 - 09/1999
    PhD in Anthropology at the University of Heidelberg, title of the thesis: "Negotiating the Divine. Temple Religion and Temple Politics in Contemporary India"
  • 09/2002 - 11/2006
    Post-doc at the Universty of Halle, title of the thesis: "Journalistic Practices and the Re-making of Leadership Traditions in India".
  • Infrastructure and the re-making of Asia through adopting, orchestrating and cooperating
    Rao, Ursula
    Duration: 01/2020 - 12/2022
    Funded by: DFG Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
    Involved organisational units of Leipzig University: Ethnologie
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  • Life, living and livelihood in Satellite Cities: New Urban forms in India
    Jakimow, Tanya
    Duration: 01/2020 - 12/2022
    Funded by: Andere öffentliche Bereiche
    Involved organisational units of Leipzig University: Ethnologie
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more projects

  • Rao, U.; Niels, Z.; Maguire, M. (Eds.)
    Bodies as Evidence. Security, Knowledge and Power
    Durham: Duke University Press. 2018
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  • Rao, U.
    Biometric Bodies, Or How to Make Electronic Fingerprinting Work in India
    Body & Society. 2018. 24 (3). pp. 68-94
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  • Rao, U.
    Tolerated Encroachment
    Cultural Anthropology. 2013. pp. 760-779
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  • Rao, U.
    Incremental Gentrification. Upgrading and the predicaments of making India slum-free
    In: Low, S. (Ed.)
    The Routledge Handbook of Anthropology and the City. Oxon: Routledge. 2018. pp. 190-203
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  • Nair, V.; Rao, U. (Eds.)
    Aadhaar. Governing With Biometrics
    South Asia. 2019. 42 (3)
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more publications

I teach across the curriculum of Social and Cultural Anthropology. At undergraduate level, my teaching focuses on training students in critical thinking. They are exposed to a wide range of classical and contemporary anthropological theories and in-depth case studies. In particular, I teach ritual theory, Anthropology of South Asia, Anthropology of the Sense, Urban Anthropology, Anthropology of Politics and Governance.

At post-graduate level most of my teaching take place in writing workshops, during which students learn to write academic papers, project proposals and fund applications. They are also trained in peer-review.