Dr Ashwin Varghese

CGHR Postdoctoral Scholar

Dr Ashwin Varghese is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at CGHR. Ashwin previously taught Sociology at O.P. Jindal Global University, India where he was a part of the founding faculty of the B.A. (Hons.) Sociology programme. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology in 2023 from Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University Delhi, India in which he studied power relations in everyday policing practices, drawing from an ethnographic study of police stations in India. His subsequent work has focused on the concept of Algorithmic Governance, analysing digital transformations of state practices. At CGHR, he is expanding on this work to study the ongoing transformations in the state’s internal mechanism, focusing on the changing dynamics of discretion, autonomy and control. His broader areas of interest include political economy of the state, ethnographic methods, science and technology studies and sociology of governance and development. 

He was previously a Researcher in the Research Council of Norway funded project  Algorithmic Governance and Cultures of Policing: Comparative Perspectives from Norway, India, Brazil, Russia and South Africa (AGOPOL); a Research Fellow in the SSHRC Insight Grant funded project Police Unions, Democratic Security, & Social Justice; and has previously worked as a Research Assistant to Legislators at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, India.                  

Ashwin’s current research is on Algorithmic Governance and the Changing Dynamics of Discretion, Autonomy and Control. He is interested in how our everyday social lives are increasingly regulated and governed by digital and algorithmic infrastructures. Crime, security, labour, workforce, state services, climate management, domestic work and so on, are increasingly being dealt with through algorithmic infrastructures powered by ‘pure’ data and ‘evidence’. This phenomenon is often referred to as algorithmic governance (Katzenbach & Ulbricht, 2019), which is defined as a new mode of ordering, regulating and modifying behaviour as a form of optimisation and management; a social control based on computational procedures characterised by ‘efficiency and effectiveness’ conditioned by power asymmetries. Algorithmic governance is promoting epistemologies that perceive the world as measurable and thus controllable through objective data. The desire for objectivity is conditioning algorithmic governance to view human discretion with suspicion and as a problem that needs to be tackled through objective, impersonal, data-driven, decision making, offering ‘effective’ strategies for governance. In this context, this study turns the gaze inwards, into internal state mechanisms and focuses on the development of algorithmic governance around the changing dynamic of discretion, autonomy and control of state personnel. The changing dynamics of discretion and autonomy is not an apolitical transformation; rather discretion and autonomy of state personnel, especially in subordinate positions, represent fissures and ‘leakages’ in the model of internal disciplinary control. This control is imperative for any project of social transformation further conditioning democratic governance. This study therefore traces the emergence and transformation of algorithmic governance, in light of the development of AI governance as a global phenomenon, to contribute critical perspectives towards AI-driven governance.


His recent publications include:

  • Varghese, A. (2024). E-Governance and Smart Policing in Kerala, India: Towards a Kerala Model of Algorithmic Governance?. In Kuldova T. Ø., Gundhus H.O. and Wathne C. T. (Ed.), Policing and Intelligence in the Global Big Data Era, Volume I – New Global Perspectives on Algorithmic Governance. Palgrave Macmillan. (Forthcoming)
  • Varghese, A. (2022). Police Interactions in Post-Colonial India: How Particularistic Accountability, Legitimacy and Tolerated Illegality Condition Everyday Policing in Delhi and Kerala. Journal of Organizational Ethnography11(2), 162-180. doi: https://doi.org/10.1108/JOE-12-2020-0057
  • Varghese, A. (2021). Combating Capitalism: A Case Study of Left Polity in Kerala. International Critical Thought. 11(2)303-320doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/21598282.2021.1886593