Selected Writings on South Asian History


"In the Name of Culture," South Asia Research Volume 21:2, 2001. 

Who were the 'Bhadralok' or the Gentlemen in colonial Bengal? Did the subjective social codes—education, style, morality— that make up the mythologies of this influential social group conceal objective relations of class power?

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"Tracking the Goddess: Religion, Community, and Identity in the Durga Puja Ceremonies of Nineteenth Century Calcutta," Journal of Asian Studies Volume 66:4, 2007

From the late nineteenth century, Hinduism in Bengal assumed a "secular" status in society whereby a selective array of its discourses and rites were used to define a political community.  In this revivalist rhetoric, religion in general, but Hinduism in particular, came to acquire a unique status as an inviolable "pure" zone that had survived "foreign" influence.  This Hindu revivalist rhetoric was exclusivist— at the expense of religious minorities;  militant—in their imagery; and highly gendered.  In this essay I look at the Durga Puja ceremonies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Calcutta in order to trace this process.

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"Deadly SpacesGhostsHistories and Colonial Anxieties in Nineteenth Century Bengal" in Melanie Joseph-Vilain and Judith Misrahi-Barak ed., Postcolonial Ghosts, Les Carnets du Cerpac, no. 8 (Presses universitaires de la Mediterranee, 2009).

This is an essay about history and spatiality.  The essay explores how spaces acquire a certain kind of past-ness or the patina of antiquity through a very specific rhetoric of haunting.  I look at haunted spaces as locations of history from two separate perspectives: British and Indian.  Ghosts, both British and Bengali determined and/or disputed the antiquity of Calcutta as a city and in turn questioned or consolidated colonial rule.

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