1. november 2023

Maansi Parpiani: Urban communities in the context of urban floods

Global Health Research

Meet Maansi Parpiani, a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with the Global Health Section within the Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen. In this spotlight, Maansi sheds light on her research, which delves into the challenges and resistance of urban communities in the context of urban floods.

Maansi Parpiani
©Maansi Parpiani

Tell us about your research

Currently I am Postdoc in a Danish Research Council research project that examines the challenges and resistance of urban communities in the context of urban floods. We evaluate and consider alternate possibilities to urban post-disaster policy. Through the case of India, we examine the policy’s reliance on the large-scale relocation of communities living informal settlements (commonly known as slums). We are studying how these resettlement sites located in remote and flood-prone peripheries exacerbates communities’ vulnerabilities and how they cope with or challenge such policies.

Why is this research important?

Through my past and current research, I seek to understand and intervene in the complex urban challenges of our time.

Rapid urbanization caused by climate change, agrarian distress and global capitalism are exacerbating global inequalities.

Maansi Parpiani

Million face precarious and changing conditions of urban work, health and housing. In my research, I study how working class communities navigate these changes and develop alternative possibilities for the urban future.

What excites you about your work and your research?

I anchor my research in communities, workers’ unions and poor urban neighborhoods, so that research can both emerge and feed into collective modes of living. I am most excited about the opportunity to interact with, learn from and have an impact on urban communities. Between 2019 and 2021, I worked as researcher for a labor rights non-profit Aajeevika Bureau in India. The job involved designing and implementing participatory research projects with working class communities in different Indian cities. However soon after I started the job, a series of successive lockdowns were announced to control the pandemic. All transport was completely suspended. Rural to urban migrant workers who usually worked and slept inside the industrial workshops (more commonly known as sweatshops) were trapped inside with limited resources to survive a prolonged lockdown. For the succeeding six months, the work of the research team headed by me, involved facilitating food aid to these workers, documenting their particular challenges and creating advocacy for their needs with local government, media and aid organizations.

Which achievements do you hope to see within your research field 10 years from now?

I have two pathways along which I hope my future research to develop. The first endeavor is to open up the field of occupational health, beyond disease and injury form the work alone, to encompass the impacts from the broader dynamics of work. I am particularly keen on foreground occupational health impacts of precarious work environments (low wages, poor working conditions, lack of separate housing) like the industrial workshops where I have conducted research before.

A second pursuit will extend my previous research and work with rural-urban migrants. Extending my urban work into rural contexts, my future research would examine the growing and simultaneous incidences of rural droughts and urban floods, and how rural-urban migration might ameliorate or exacerbate communities’ exposure to these twin risks.

What advice do you have for junior researchers in global health?

I would urge junior scholars to not feel compelled to adhere to strict borders between research theory and practice. Through my research career, I have found innumerable opportunities to undertake research work that through partnerships and participatory research methods, can advance at the same time: theory-making, policy advocacy and community impact.

What is your favorite source of global health inspiration and knowledge?

Prof Veena Das’ research work inspires and informs much of my work. Das’ work has been path-breaking in its community-based research methods, theorization of pain and suffering among the urban poor and inter-disciplinary collaboration between global health and anthropology.

A recent title that could be interesting to the global health community:

Das, Veena. 2015. Affliction: Health, Disease, Poverty. New York, United States: Fordham University Press.


Maansi Parpiani, maansi.parpiani@sund.ku.dk

Postdoctoral Researcher at the Global Health Section, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen

Read more about Maansi’s research here.


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