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Kelly D. Alley

Kelly D. Alley

Alma Holladay Professor Emerita

Sociology, Anthropology & Social Work

Kelly D. Alley

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7058 Haley Center

Office Hours

By Appointment


PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison

BS, Cornell University

About Me

Kelly Alley has carried out research in northern India for over thirty years, focusing on public culture and environmental issues. Her first book titled, On the Banks of the Ganga: When Wastewater Meets a Sacred River (University of Michigan Press, 2002), explored Hindu interpretations of the sacred river Ganga in light of environmental problems. In a recent project funded by the Cultural Anthropology Program of the National Science Foundation, Alley examined the potential of decentralized programs of wastewater management to meet the wastewater challenge. Her new book is titled, Microbial Machines: Experiments with Decentralized Wastewater Treatment and Reuse in India (University of California Press, August). She is currently Associate Editor of Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water (Wires Water).

Alley has worked with the World Water Forum and UNESCO to incorporate understanding of cultural diversity into water management. She worked on water governance in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin, and with colleagues and students produced interactive maps of hydropower projects and wastewater management infrastructure. Her research has been supported by the Center for Forest Sustainability and the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University, the National Science Foundation, the United States Information Agency/US Department of State (Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs), and the American Institute of India Studies. In 2011, she was awarded the President's Outstanding Collaborative Units award with members of the Center for Forest Sustainability at Auburn.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, Alley worked with Julian Crandall Hollick, National Public Radio producer, on the "Ganga Radio Series," a series of features and documentaries about the culture and ecology of the river Ganges in India and Bangladesh. The series aired on NPR in the fall of 2007.

For three years (1998-2001), Alley and M. C. Mehta, an environmental lawyer from Delhi, directed a project to facilitate professional exchanges between environmental lawyers, scientists and NGOs to solve river pollution problems in India.

Alley is past-president of the Anthropology and Environment Section of the American Anthropological Association.

Research Interests

Cultural politics of river pollution prevention, wastewater management and reuse, water law, religion and ecology


Alley, Kelly D. 2023. Microbial Machines: Experiments with Decentralized Wastewater Treatment and Reuse in India. Berkeley: University of California Press (August)

Alley, Kelly D. 2022. Contradictions in Pollution Control: Religion, Courts, and the State in India. In Climate Politics and the Power of Religion, Evan Berry, ed. Bloomington: Indiana University press

Alley, Kelly D. 2021. Population, Urbanization and Environmental Challenges. Understanding Contemporary India, Neil DeVotta and Sumit Ganguly, eds. Boulder: Lynne Riener

Alley, Kelly D. 2019. River Goddesses, Personhood and Rights of Nature: Implications for Spiritual Ecology. Religions 10 (9). Special issue on Religious Environmental Activism in Asia: Case Studies in Spiritual Ecology, ed. Les Sponsel.

Alley, Kelly D. and Tarini Mehta. 2019. The Experiment with Rights of Nature in India. In Sustainability and the Rights of Nature in Practice. Cameron La Follette and Chris Maser (ed). CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.

Alley, Kelly D., Nutan Maurya and Sukanya Das. 2018. Parameters of Successful Wastewater Reuse in Urban India. Indian Politics and Policy vol. 1, no. 2 doi: 10.18278/inpp.1.2.4.

Alley, Kelly D., Jennifer Barr and Tarini Mehta. 2018. Infrastructure Disarray in the Clean Ganga/Clean India Campaigns. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water. Early view, DOI: 10.1002/wat2.1310.

Alley, K. D. 2017. Modes of governance in India's hydropower development. WIREs Water. doi:10.1002/wat2.1198.

Alley, Kelly D. 2016. Governance, Connectivity, and Knowledge Transparency in the Brahmaputra Basin. In Heading East: Security, Trade, and Environment between India and Southeast Asia, Karen Stoll Farrell and Sumit Ganguly, eds. Oxford University Press

Alley, Kelly D. 2016. Rejuvenating Ganga: Challenges in Institutions, Technologies and Governance Article. April

Alley, Kelly D. 2015. Killing a River: Failure of Regulation. In book: Living Rivers, Dying Rivers: A Quest through India, Publisher: Oxford University press, 2015 Editors: Ramaswamy Iyer

Alley, Kelly D., Ryan Hile and Chandana Mitra. 2014. Visualizing Hydropower Across the Himalayas: Mapping in a Time of Regulatory Decline. Himalaya: the Journal for the Association of Nepal and Himalayan Studies (Special Issue on Developing the Himalaya) 32 (2):52-66

Alley, Kelly D. 2012. "Water Wealth and Energy in the Indian Himalayas" in the Silk Road Journal

Alley, Kelly D. 2014. "The Developments, Policies and Assessments of Hydropower in the Ganga River Basin" in Our National River Ganga: Lifeline of Millions (Rashmi Sanghi, ed. Springer and Sponsored by Gangapedia)

Alley, Kelly D. 2012. "The Paradigm Shift in India's River Policies: From Sacred to Transferable Waters" in Water, Cultural Diversity, and Global Environmental Change, The Paradigm Shift in India’s River Policies: From Sacred to Transferable Waters. In Cultural Diversity & Global Environmental Change: Emerging Trends, Sustainable Futures? Springer Press (A product of the UNESCO-International Hydrological Program Water and Cultural Diversity initiative, in partnership with United Nations University-Institute for Advanced Studies-Traditional Ecological Knowledge)

Alley, Kelly D. 2012. "The Disappearing Rivers of India" in Asia Pacific Memo

Alley, Kelly D. 2009. "Legal Activism and River Pollution in India" in the Georgetown International Environmental Law Review (Summer 2009)

Alley, Kelly D. 2006. Anthropology and Environmental Debate: Reflections on Science, Resource Nationalism and News Reporting. India Review (special edition on Public Anthropology) 5 (3-4)

Alley, Kelly D. 2006. The American Anthropology of India. India Review 5 (1)

McDaniel, Josh and Kelly D. Alley. 2005. Connecting Local Environmental Knowledge and Land Use Practices: A Human Ecosystem Approach to Urbanization in West Georgia. Ecosystems (8)1

Alley, Kelly D. 2004. The Making of a River Linking Plan in India: Suppressed Science and Spheres of Expert Debate. India Review  (3)3

Alley, Kelly D. 2002. On the Banks of the Ganga: When Wastewater Meets a Sacred River (University of Michigan Press)

Alley, Kelly D. 2000. "Separate Domains: Hinduism, Politics and Environmental Pollution" in Hinduism and Ecology, edited by Christopher Chapple and Mary E. Tucker (Harvard U Press 2000 and reprinted in An Anthology of Writings on the Ganga, Assa Doron et al, eds.)

Alley, Kelly D. 1998. "Images of Waste and Purification on the Banks of the Ganga" in City and Society (Annual Review):167-182

Alley, Kelly D. 1998. "Idioms of Degeneracy: Assessing Ganga's Purity and Pollution" in Purifying the Earthly Body of God, edited by Lance Nelson (SUNY Press) and reprinted in Worldviews, Religion and the Environment edited by Richard Foltz (Thomson Wadsworth, 2002)

Alley, Kelly D. "Gandhiji on the Central Vista: A Postcolonial Refiguring" in Modern Asian Studies (1997) 31(4):967-994

Alley, Kelly D. 1994. "Ganga and Gandagi: Interpretations of Pollution and Waste in Benaras" in Ethnology 33(2):127-45

Alley, Kelly D. 1996. "Urban Institutions at the Crossroads: Judicial Activism and Pollution Prevention in Kanpur" in Urban Anthropology 25(4):351-383