Dr Adam Sargent

Adam_SDr Adam Sargent is a Research Fellow in the Institute for Culture and Society. Trained in cultural anthropology, his research focuses on capitalist development, labor, infrastructure, and social inequality. He has explored these issues through research projects on construction work in India and engineering work in the U.S. His current research explores how the emergence of algorithmic credit-scoring systems is reshaping credit and livelihoods in India. This research will contribute to the Western Sydney University node of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence in Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S). His dissertation research on construction in India examined the construction site as a complex regime of exploitation, jointly crafted by global, regional, and local actors. It tracks the socio-material dimensions of worker precarity produced on the construction site and the techniques workers deploy in response. It demonstrates how everyday negotiations of precarity on the site generate the patterns of profit and exclusion that mark India’s urban transformations. He has published this research in articles featured in Anthropological Quarterly, Anthropology of Work Review, and Signs and Society. Dr Sargent has also conducted research on labor and inequality in engineering work in the United States. While decidedly white-collar, engineering work in the U.S. has become more precarious as technological shifts reduce jobs and transform the nature of engineering work. This research demonstrated how these shifts reconfigure the sensory elements of engineering work in ways that are shaped by race, gender, and class. Findings from this work are featured or forthcoming in Social Studies of Science, International Journal of Engineering Education, and Journal of Engineering Education. At the ICS, Dr Sargent will contribute to the People Program in the Western Sydney University node of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence in Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S). His research will explore the uneven implementations of ADM technologies across the Global South. In addition to this comparative research, Dr Sargent will conduct ethnographic research on the growing use of automated loans in India. These loans operate through mobile phone apps that collect personal data (e.g., location data, phone contacts, social media activity) from users and rely on algorithms to assess creditworthiness. Dr. Sargent’s research will investigate how algorithmic credit scoring systems are transforming access to and experiences of credit and debt in India.


  • BA(Anthropology), 2000, Reed College
  • MA (Sociocultural Anthropology), 2009, The University of Chicago
  • PhD (Sociocultural Anthropology), 2018, The University of Chicago

Research Focus

  • Capitalism
  • Infrastructure
  • Labor
  • Debt
  • Urbanisation
  • Materiality
  • Social Inequality
  • India

Selected Publications

Sargent A, 2021, “Ideologies of labor and the consequences of toil in India’s construction industry’, Signs and Society, vol. 9, no. 3, in press.

Sargent A, A Vinson & R Stevens 2021, ‘Sensing defects: collaborative seeing in engineering work’, Social Studies of Science, published online February 2021. doi:10.1177/0306312721991919.

Sargent A, 2020, ‘Working against labor: struggles for self in the Indian construction industry’, Anthropology of Work Review, vol. 41, no. 2, pp.76-85.

Butt W, M Hayat & A Sargent, 2020, ‘Between work and labor: valuing action in South Asia’, Anthropology of Work Review, vol. 41, no. 2 pp. 71-75.

Sargent A, 2019, ‘Moral economies of remuneration: wages, piece-rates, and contracts on a Delhi construction site’, Anthropological Quarterly, vol. 92, no. 3, pp. 433-461.

Morton G & A Sargent, 2019, ‘Introduction: what happened to the wage?’, Anthropological Quarterly, vol. 92, no. 3, pp. 311-338.

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