Show The Graduate Center Menu

Leo Coleman
Position: Associate Professor
Campus Affiliation: Hunter College
Degrees/Diplomas: PhD Princeton University 2008
Research Interests: Political and legal anthropology; urban anthropology; science and technology Studies; colonialism and postcolonialism; constitutionalism & nationalism; India, Scotland, and the British Empire
Subfield: Cultural Anthropology

Leo Coleman is a political anthropologist who researches technology, politics, and personhood in urban experience, especially in India, Scotland, and the British Empire. He publishes widely about technics and ethics, urban sociality and solitude, and the legal forms and norms of group-life. He also writes about the history of anthropology and examines the mutual entanglements of anthropology with technological modernity and artistic modernism since the beginning of the twentieth century. 


Dr. Coleman is the author of A Moral Technology: Electrification as Political Ritual in New Delhi (Cornell University Press, 2017), which explores how technological installations, from great acts of illumination to mundane distributions of power, have given form to political ideologies in India’s capital city and shaped the city’s material and political transformations from imperial enclave to national capital to global city. Dr. Coleman is currently pursuing two book projects: a comparative historical anthropology of constitutional and legal form in various parts of the British Empire, and a postcolonial history of the idea of energy and its transformations in social thought.


Selected Publications


Books and Edited Volumes

Coleman, Leo. 2017. A Moral Technology: Electrification as Political Ritual in New Delhi. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.


Coleman, Leo. 2020. (co-editor with Jessamyn R. Abel). Infrastructures and Global Political Aesthetics. Special issue of Verge: Studies in Global Asias 6(2). 


Coleman, Leo, ed. 2011. Food: Ethnographic Encounters. Oxford: Berg Press.

Coleman, Leo. 2020. “Afterword: People Thinking Energetically.” In Ethnographies of Power: A Political Anthropology of Energy, edited by Tristan Loloum, Simone Abram, and Nathalie Ortar. New York: Berghahn.

Abel, Jessamyn R. and Leo Coleman. 2020. “Dreams of Infrastructure in Global Asias.” Introduction to the special issue Infrastructures and Global Political Aesthetics. Verge: Studies in Global Asias 6(2). 

Coleman, Leo. 2019. “Widened Reason and Deepened Optimism: Electricity and Morality in Durkheim’s Anthropology and Our Own.” In Electrifying Anthropology: Exploring Electrical Practices and Infrastructures, Simone Abram, Britt Ross Winthereik, and Thomas Yarrow, eds., pp. 43-63. New York: Bloomsbury.

Coleman, Leo. 2018. “Building Scotland, Building Solidarity: A Scottish Architect’s Knowledge of Nation.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 60(4): 873-906. DOI:

Coleman, Leo. 2017. “Functionalists Write II: Weird Empathy in Malinowski's Trobriand Ethnographies.” Anthropological Quarterly 90(4): 973-1002. DOI: 10.1353/anq.2017.0058

Coleman, Leo. 2016. “Inside and Outside the House: A Narrative of Mobility and Becoming in Delhi.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 45(6): 692-715.

Coleman, Leo. 2015. “Power and Ignorance in British India: The Native Fetish of the Crown.” In Regimes of Ignorance: Anthropological Perspectives on the Production and Reproduction of Non-Knowledge. Roy Dilley and Thomas Kirsch, eds. Pp. 159-187. New York: Berghahn.

Coleman, Leo. 2015. “The Imagining Life: Reflections on Imagination in Political Anthropology.” In Reflections on Imagination: Human Capacity and Ethnographic Method. Mark Harris and Nigel Rapport, eds. Pp. 195-214. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Coleman, Leo. 2014. “Infrastructure and Interpretation: Meters, Dams, and State Imagination in Scotland and India.” American Ethnologist 41(3): 457–472.

Coleman, Leo. 2014. “Corporate Identity in Citizens United: Legal Fictions and Anthropological Theory.” Political and Legal Anthropology Review 37(2): 308-328.

Coleman, Leo. 2009. Being Alone Together: From Solidarity to Solitude in Urban Anthropology. Anthropological Quarterly 82/3: 755-778. DOI: 10.1343/anq.0.0075