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Andrea Wright

Associate Professor; Director, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies

Email: [[w|agwright]]
Office: Washington Hall Room 120
Appointments and office hours may be booked online: {{}}
Areas of Specialization: Cultural anthropology; anthro-history; energy infrastructure; labor; migration; security; kinship; India; Pakistan; the Arabian Sea; 20th century British Imperialism; postcolonial states; human rights


Between Dreams and Ghosts: Indian Migration and Middle Eastern Oil, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2021. You can read about Between Dreams and Ghosts on Jadaliyya or Maidaanam. Or you can listen to a discussion about the book on the New Books NetworkProject on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS) Podcast, or the Lekh Podcast .

“From Slaves to Contract Workers: Genealogies of Consent and Security in Indian Labor Migration,” Journal of World History 32 no. 1 (2021): 29-43.

“Making Kin from Gold: Dowry, Gender, and Indian Labor Migration to the Gulf,” Cultural Anthropology 35 no. 3 (2020): 435-461.

“Imperial Labour: Strikes, Security, and the Depoliticization of Oil Production,” in South Asian Migrations: A Global History: Labor, Law, and Wayward Lives, edited by Neilesh Bose, 63-84. New York: Bloomsbury, 2020.

“‘The Immoral Traffic in Women’: Regulating Indian Emigration to the Persian Gulf,” in Borders and Mobility in South Asia and Beyond, edited by Reece Jones and Md. Azmeary Ferdoush, 145-166. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018.


My research examines the histories of capitalism and its contemporary expressions in South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and, more recently, the United States. This research draw upon postcolonial theories of mobility and decolonial theories of community to better understand how labor and energy production shape economies, geo-political dynamics, and social inequalities.

My first book, Between Dreams and Ghosts: Indian Migration and Middle Eastern Oil, is an ethnography of Indian migration to oil and gas projects in the Gulf. More than one million Indians travel annually to work in oil projects in the Gulf; one of the few international destinations where men without formal education can find lucrative employment. Between Dreams and Ghosts follows their migration, from villages in India to oil projects in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, and back again. Engaging all parties involved—the migrants themselves, the recruiting agencies that place them, the government bureaucrats that regulate their emigration, and the corporations that hire them—this book examines labor migration as a socio-cultural process that reshapes global capitalism.

I am currently working on my second book, Producing Labor Hierarchies: A History of Oil in the Arabian Sea. This book is a history of oil production in the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula and focuses on the 1930s to the 1970s — a period that includes the end of formal British imperialism in the Gulf and South Asia and the development of new state governments in both of those areas. In the book, I examine the process by which workers’ rights were limited as states and corporations increasingly associated oil with national security. The result was the evacuation of politics from the oilfields. In order to understand this evacuation and the securitization of oil production, I examine discourses around worker rights, changes to how workers formed solidarities, and the racialization of oil management practices.

In addition, I’ve recently begun research that investigates variations in global infrastructure development through comparing green energy initiatives in the United States, India, and Kuwait. In this research, I focus on religious beliefs, cultural perspectives on what constitutes the environment, debates regarding one’s ethical responsibility to the environment, and differing visions of the future. Part of this current research focuses on energy policies and community engagement in Virginia — it examines the unequal environmental and economic impacts of green energy projects and looks at how racism, class inequalities, and historical narratives affect the planning of energy projects. Students are welcome to contact me about research opportunities on this topic.


Salovaara, Isabel M. “Spirits and Substances of Modernity: An Interview with Andrea Wright.” Supplementals, Fieldsights, January 20, 2021.

Voices of the Middle East and North Africa: Interview with Andrea Wright,” KPFA, first broadcast on June 10, 2020. 

No Good Options for Migrant Workers in Gulf COVID-19 Lockdown,” Middle East Report Online, April 30, 2020.


PhD, Anthropology & History, University of Michigan

MA, Anthropology & History, University of Michigan

MA, Social Sciences, University of Chicago

BA, Anthropology & Art History, University of Michigan

Courses Offered


ANTH 150: Culture and Migration

ANTH 202: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

ANTH 300: History of Anthropological Theory

ANTH 306: Sex, Gender, & Sexuality

ANTH 350: Anthropology of the State

ANTH 645: Historical Anthropology


Asian & Middle Eastern Studies:

AMES 250: Introduction to Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

AMES 390: Oil in the Middle East

AMES 390: Transnational South Asia (cross listed in APIA)

AMES 390: Human Rights in Global Perspective (cross listed in APIA)

AMES 493: Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Senior Capstone


Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies:

APIA 450: Transnational South Asia (cross listed in AMES)

APIA 450: Human Rights in Global Perspective (cross listed in AMES)

APIA 499: Asian and Pacific Islander American Studies Senior Capstone