Nayantara Sheoran Appleton

Dr Nayantara Appleton profile picture

Lecturer in Cultural Anthropology School of Social and Cultural Studies


Teaching in 2019

Qualifications and Appointments

Postdoctoral Research. Anthropology and Sociology, The Graduate Institute, Geneva, 2013 - 2016

PhD. Cultural Studies, George Mason University, 2013

MSc. Communication Studies, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, 2004

BA. Communication and Journalism, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, 2001

BA. Transferred, University of Delhi, Miranda House College, 1999

Research Specialties and Teaching


My research and teaching interests are in the following areas: Feminist Medical Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies (STS); Cultural Studies and Media; Reproductive and Contraceptive Justice; Critical Kinship; Ethics and Governance; Regenerative Medicine; and Ethnographic Research.

I am currently working on a book manuscript, Emergency Contraception: Medicine, Media, and the (re)Imagined Family Planning Project in Contemporary India. In this work, I critically unpack the implications of shifts in the politics of health and reproduction in liberalized India by focusing particularly on pharmaceutical and hormonal contraceptives and their marketing. In particular, I situate this analysis within a critique of neo-liberal and neo-Malthusian frameworks, positing that the contemporary moment with a plethora of contraceptive options extends, rather than breaks from historically problematic and draconian ‘family planning’ projects in India. This work builds on my dissertation research and draws on fieldwork in India since 2008.

My second project, which began in 2013 as part of my post doctoral research fellowship, extends my engagement with bio-medically promoted health and burgeoning biotechnologies. Here, by focusing on the regulations and everyday ethics around stem cell research and therapies in India, I look at regulatory liminality as a generative space for imagining a new bioethical framework. A framework that is cognizant of its global lineage alongside evolving local realities. The book, a work in progress reflects the title, Governance of Ethics, Ethics of Governance: Regulating Stem Cell Therapies in India. 

My dissertation research and writing has been supported by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant in the Science, Technology, and Society (STS) Program (Award No: 1026682) and also the Dean’s Dissertation Completion Fellowship at George Mason University. My post-doctoral research fellowship was supported under a grant from the European Research Council (ERC) (Project ID: 313769, PI: Dr. Aditya Bhardwaj) titled “Red Revolution: The Emergence of Stem Cell Biotechnologies in India.”

I am interested in supervising masters and doctoral students in the fields of feminist medical anthropology and STS (particularly in the areas of reproduction, contraception, hormonal interventions, regenerative medicine, and global politics of medicine); bioethics, governance, and regulatory frameworks for medical and allied healthcare; and transnational pharmaceutical regimens.

Teaching in 2018



Under Contract: Emergency Contraception in India: Media, Liberalization, and Reimagined Family Planning.
Under contract at Rutgers University Press (Series on Health Inequalities and Medical Anthropology)

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

Forthcoming: Appleton, N.S. “Get back to life”: Contradictions in/of emergency contraceptive advertisements in contemporary India. Economic and Political Weekly

Appleton, N.S. (2017). Feminist Commons and Techno-Scientific Futures. Commoning Ethnography. (1-10) v. 1, n. 1, DOI: 10.26686/ce.v1i1.4120

Appleton, N.S. & Bharadwaj, A. (2017). Bio-Crossing Heterotopia:  Revisiting Contemporary Stem Cell Research and Therapy in India. In Bharadwaj, A (ed.), Global Perspectives on Stem Cell Technologies. (pp. 195-214). Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Appleton, N.S. & Bharadwaj, A. (2017). On the everyday ethics of stem cell therapies in India. In Shaw, R.M. (Ed.) Bioethics Beyond Altruism : Donating and Transforming Human Biological Materials. (pp. 89-112). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-55532-4

Appleton, N.S. (2016-2017). Unsettling the (presumed) settled: Contents and Discontents of Contraception in Aotearoa New Zealand. Health, Culture and Society, 9, 90-96. doi:

Sheoran, N. (2016). Stem Cell Terrains in India: An Anthropologist Explores. Indian Journal of Stem Cell Therapy, 2:1, 17 – 20.

Sheoran, N. (2015). ‘Stratified contraception:’ Emergency Contraceptive Pills and Women’s Differential Experiences in Contemporary India. Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness, 34:3, 243 – 258, DOI: 10.1080/01459740.2014.922081

Sheoran, N., Deomanpo, D., & Van Hollen, C. (2015). Extending Theory, Rupturing Boundaries: Reproduction, Health, and Medicine Beyond North-South Binaries. Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness, 34:3, 185 – 191, DOI: 10.1080/01459740.2014.981263

Sheoran, N. (2012). Once an insider, always an outsider: (re)Negotiating boundaries when researchers return “home.” for research. Anthropology News 53,(2).

Sheoran, N. (2011) Reading the i-pill advertisement: The pleasures and pressures of contemporary contraceptive advertising in India. In R. Chopra & R. Gajjala (Eds.), Global media, Culture, and Identity (pp 85 – 99). New York, NY: Routledge

Awards & Fellowships

-Graduate Student Paper Awards, Council on the Anthropology of Reproduction (CAR), Society of Medical Anthropology (SMA), American Anthropological Association.
-Graduate Student Paper Award, Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco Study Group (ADTSG), Society of Medical Anthropology (SMA), American Anthropological Association.
-Dean’s Dissertation Completion Grant, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, George Mason University.

-National Science Foundation (NSF) Travel Grant, Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), Cleveland, OH.

-Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (Award No: 1026682). National Science Foundation (NSF). Division of Social and Economic Sciences in the Science, Technology, and Society (STS)

Memberships, Appointments, Other Work

2016 – Present: Co-Chair of Science and Medicine in South Asia (SMSA) Special Interest Group of the Society of Medical Anthropology (SMA) of the American Anthropological Association (AAA).

2017 – Present: Media Liaison, Society of Medical Anthropology in Aotearoa (SOMAA).  

2013 – 2016: Chair of Science, Technology, and Medicine (STM) Special Interest Group of the Society of Medical Anthropology (SMA) of the American Anthropology Association (AAA).

2011 – 2016: Co-organizer of Science, Technology, and Medicine (STM) special interest group panels for the 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) and American Anthropological Association (AAA).

Reviewer (For peer reviewed journals)
Medical Anthropology, Medical Anthropological Quarterly, Anthropological Quarterly, Journal of Communication Studies, The Communication Review, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Family Medicine and Community Healthy, Science and Public Policy, World Medical and Health Policy, Critical Public Health, BioSocieties.

Book Reviewer
Science and Public Policy, Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Journal of International Women’s Studies, New Zealand International Review, Medical Anthropology Quarterly.


Teaching in 2019