In the past three decades, Kalpana Kannabiran has researched and written in the areas of sociology of law, historical sociology, social movements, gender studies, disability studies, indigenous/adivasi rights, minority rights, development studies, jurisprudence (colonial, constitutional and criminal) and human rights.  She has been based in India and trained as a sociologist (PhD-Sociology), and as a lawyer (LLM-Jurisprudence) and has combined research, teaching in three disciplines (law, sociology and gender studies), activism, pro bono socio-legal counseling, rights advocacy and strategic litigation in her work.

Kalpana Kannabiran studied for her BA in Nizam College, Osmania University, her MA (Sociology), MPhil (Sociology) in Central University of Hyderabad, India and has a PhD from the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. She has a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and Master of Laws (LLM Jurisprudence) from Osmania University, Hyderabad. She was General Secretary of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies, 1998-2000 and Member of the Executive Committee of the International Sociological Association, 2014-18.

Kalpana Kannabiran received the Rockefeller Humanist-in-Residence Fellowship, Women’s Studies Program, Hunter College, City University of New York in 1992-1993. She received the VKRV Rao Prize for Social Science Research in 2003 for her work in the field of Social Aspects of Law and the Amartya Sen Award for Distinguished Social Scientists in 2012 for her work in the discipline of Law. Both these awards were conferred by the Indian Council for Social Science Research. In 2007, she was invited to be a member of the Expert Group on the Equal Opportunities Commission, Government of India set up on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee, led by Professor NR Madhava Menon.

Part of the founding faculty of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, where she taught sociology and law for a decade (1999-2009) besides inaugurating its research programme in 2004 on Criminal Justice and Human Rights, Kalpana Kannabiran was part of the team that introduced and taught the Masters Programme (LLM) in Human Rights in NALSAR.

In March 2011, she was invited to join Council for Social Development, Southern Regional Centre, a research institute recognized and supported by the Indian Council of Social Science Research, as its Regional Director, a position she held till March 2021. At CSD, Hyderabad, she initiated the PhD programme in the social sciences and women’s studies in collaboration with Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad and Mumbai in 2012, and secured the annual institutional grant-in-aid from the Government of Andhra Pradesh in 2011 and the Government of Telangana in 2015 – a partnership that has seen the publication of the Telangana Social Development Reports, an initiative she conceptualised and led till 2021.

Kalpana initiated a major research and advocacy programme in the area of Adivasi Rights in 2012, that saw CSD taking new initiatives in the area of socio-legal research, strategic litigation and legal training in the field of adivasi/indigenous rights making CSD-SRC the first social science institute to engage intensively with law and legal research. Since 2012, she has focused in terms of pedagogy on working with young researchers on honing writing skills through writing workshops, on training lawyers from vulnerable communities, especially adivasi communities to develop lawyering skills and court-craft.

Alongside her academic career, she is co-founder of Asmita Resource Centre for Women, set up in 1991 in Hyderabad, where she has led the legal services and outreach and pro-bono counselling services for women survivors of violence and women in difficult situations. Guided by a collective of feminist intellectuals, of which Kalpana Kannabiran was part, Asmita is a front running women’s rights collective for 30 years between 1991 and 2021, providing learning materials, imparting training to women’s groups across the state and initiating discussions on issues of public interest, as well as organizing women writers and publishing anthologies of women’s writing in Telugu.


Kalpana Kannabiran was nominated Civil Society Governor (Asia) in January 2020 by the Commonwealth Foundation, London for a two-year term. https://commonwealthfoundation.com/civil-society-advisory-governors-new-appointments/

The Commonwealth Foundation, an international organisation established by Heads of Government based on the view that the Commonwealth “is as much an association of peoples as it is of governments,” advances participatory governance through its support of civic voices that represent citizen engagements in public discourses around citizenship and promotes initiatives in policy reform that influence public discourse and help enhance democratic participation in just governance. The specific focus of the Commonwealth Foundation is to give voice to “less-heard” voices – institutions and groups who are excluded from participation in decision making but who can and do make important contributions to public discourse and accountability processes. There are five Civil Society Advisory Governors who are part of the Executive Committee and Board of Governors of the Foundation and advise the foundation on long range plans, strategic directions and issues facing civil society organizing across the Commonwealth. They act as advocates for civil society and the Commonwealth Foundation within the Commonwealth and beyond it.