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Forschungsstelle für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte

Prof. Dr. Debjani Bhattacharyya

Curiculum Vitae


2008- 2014    Ph.D. Emory University, USA.

2001- 2003    Master of Arts, Jadavpur University, India.

1998- 2001    Bachelor of Arts, Jadavpur University, India.


Professor and Chair of the History of the Anthropocene, University of Zürich

2020 - 2021    
Associate Professor, Department of History, Drexel University, USA. Affiliate Center for Science, Technology and Society (2020-21), Department of Global Studies and Modern Languages, (2017-21) and Urban Strategy (2016-21).

2014 – 2020 
Assistant Professor, Department of History, Drexel University, USA.



2022 (Summer)    
Senior Fellow, American Institute of Asian Studies (AIIS), Ashoka University, India.

2021 (Summer)    
Fellow, Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies (FRIAS), Freiburg University, Germany.

2020 -     
Non-Resident Fellow, Center for the Advanced Studies of India (CASI), University of Pennsylvania, USA.

2019 -- 2020    
Fellow, Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies, Princeton University, USA.

2016 – 2017     
Research Fellow, International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden University, The Netherlands.

2011 – 2012 
Junior Fellow of American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS), Center for Studies of Social Sciences, Kolkata, India.



  • Editor in Chief, History Compass (2022 – )
  • South Asia Editor, History Compass (2019-2021)
  • Contributing Editor, Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (2020-2025)
  • Editorial Board Member, Environment and History (2020-2023)
  • Board Member, Global Urban History Project (2020-2024)
  • Advisory Board Member, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies (2021-)



  • Reviewer, ERC Advanced Grant
  • Advisory Board, Centre for Transcultural Asian Studies (CETRAS), University of Freiburg (Germany)
  • Inernational Advisory Council, Linda Hall Library (USA)
  • Programme Committee (2023), American Historical Association
  • Reviewer SNF Ambizione Fellowship
  • St. Andrews Prize Committee (Chair), European Society for Environmental History (ESEH), 2021-23.
  • Review Committee for Canada Research Chair, 2021.
  • Review Committee for A. H. Heineken Prize for History 2022, Netherlands.
  • Review Committee for Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), (2021-)
  • Review Committee for Fulbright-Nehru Teaching Fellowship 2021.
  • Review Committee for Sanders Professorship, Department of History, DePaul University, 2020.
  • Prize Committee Member, Hal Rothman Dissertation Prize, American Society for Environmental History (ASEH), 2019-2022.
  • Selection Committee “Early Career Fellowship for STEM in South Asia,” University of Pennsylvania. 2016.



Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta: The Making of Calcutta. Studies in Environment and History Series (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018) (Indian edition February 2019; Paperback June 2019).

  • Honorable Mention for the 2017-18 Best Book in Non-North American Urban History Award.
  • Biblio Reviewer’s Choice Book for 2019.

Reviewed in:
Maya Jassanof New York Review of Books; Rohan D’Souza H-Water; Jeremy Schmidt Environmental Values; David Arnold English Historical Review; Renisa Mawani Law, Humanities and Culture; Tirthankar Roy Journal of Interdisciplinary History; Jenia Mukherjee Journal of History; Benjamin Siegel Environmental History; Gagan Preet Singh H-Asia; John Hutnyk South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies; Peter Robb Environment and History; Sanjukta Das Gupta Conservation and Society; Wilko Hardenberg, H-Sci-Med-Tech; Nabaparna Ghosh, Journal of Asian Studies; Sujit Sivasundaram, American Historical Review, Kaustubh Mani, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies.

Select Interviews and Blog discussions:
XQ’s Conversation no. XV, Chapati Mystery
Through the Rear View Mirror, Legal History Blog
Center for Advanced Studies in India Podcast
Public Seminar Book Talk
Appraising Risk Podcast
New Books Network, Indian Ocean World


Refereed Journal Articles:
2021    “‘A River is not a Pendulum’: Sediments of Science in the World of Tides” in Isis, 112, no. 1 (March 2021): 141-149. Special Issues on “Knowing the Littorals.” (OA)

2020    “Indian City and its ‘Restive Publics’: A Review Essay,” Modern Asian Studies 53, no. 4 (2020), 1-31.

“Speculation: A Concept History,” Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 40, no. 1 (2020), 51-56. Special Issue on “Concepts of the Urban.”

2019    “Land Dispossession in South Asia,” The Oxford Research Encyclopedia for Asian Studies. ed. David Ludden (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019). DOI:

2019    “Provincializing the History of Speculation from Colonial India,” History Compass, 17: e12517 (2019).  doi:10.1111/hic3.12517

“Fluid Histories: Swamps, Law and the Company-State in Colonial Bengal,” Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient. 61, no. 5-6 (2018): 1036-73. Special Issue on “Repossessing Property in South Asia: Land, Rights and Law across Modern/Early Modern Divide.” doi:10.1163/15685209-12341466

2018 “Discipline and Drain: Settling the Moving Bengal Delta,” Global Environment 11, (2018): 236-257. Special Issue on “Environment, Disaster and Property.” doi:10.3197/ge.2018.110203

2017    “Ethics/ Reading /Sex: How do We Read?” Feminist Formations 29, no. 3 (2017): 193-7. doi:10.1353/ff.2017.0041

2016    “Hoarding Land: Interwar Housing Speculation and Rent Profiteering in Colonial Calcutta,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 36, no. 3 (2016): 465-82.

2015    “The History of Eminent Domain in British Colonial Thought and Legal Practice in South Asia,” Economic and Political Weekly 50, no. 50 (2015): 45-53.



Refereed Book Chapters:

Forthcoming,  “Prophetic Science: The Government of Wind in the Bay of Bengal” in Narrative Science, ed. Mary Morgan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021 OA), ERC Grant # 694732.

2020    “Politics of Dwelling: Divergent Spaces in Calcutta,” Richardson Dilworth and Timothy Weaver eds. Role of Ideas in Urban Political Development, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020), 202-14.

2013    “Geography’s Myth: The Many Origins of Calcutta” Gyanendra Pandey, ed., Unarchived Histories: The Mad and the Trifling in the Colonial and Postcolonial World (New York: Routledge, 2013), 144-58.

2008    “Nation-less Bodies and National Identity in Jyotirmoyee Devi’s Epar Ganga Opar Ganga” Ansgar Nünning, Birgit Neumann and Bo Petersson, eds., Narrative and Identity: Theoretical Approaches and Critical Analyses (Trier: Wissenschaftler Verlag Trier, 2008), 127-40.

2008  “Of Shadows and Silences: Militant Nationalism in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines” Klaus Stierstorfer and Annette Kern-Stähler, eds., Literary Encounters of Fundamentalism: A Case Book (Heidelberg: Winter Verlag, 2008), 75-88.



Book Reviews:

2020    Benjamin Siegel, Hungry Nation: Food, Famine and the Making of Modern India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018) Environmental History 25, no. 1 (2020).

2020    Craig Jeffrey, Modern India: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018) American Historical Review 125, Issue 4, October 2020, Pages 1355–1357,

2019    “Microhistory of a Forgotten Disaster,” Benjamin Kingsway, An Imperial Disaster: The Bengal Cyclone of 1876 (New Delhi: Speaking Tiger, 2018) Economic and Political Weekly, 54, no. 36 (2019).

2019    Radhika Mongia, Indian Migration and Empire: A Colonial Genealogy of the Modern State (Raleigh: Duke University Press, 2018) H-Diplo.

2019    Renisa Mawani, Across Oceans of Law: The Komagata Maru and Jurisdiction of the Time of Empire (Raleigh: Duke University Press, 2017) Law and History Review 37, no. 2 (May 2019): 639-41.

2017    Amrita Pande, Wombs in Labor: Transnational Commercial Surrogacy in India (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014) Enterprise and Society 18, no. 2 (2017): 474-76.

2016    Andrew Fitzmaurice, Sovereignty, Property and Empire 1500 - 2000 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014) Political Theory 45, no. 3 (2016): 416-19.

2015    Andrew Sartori, Liberalism in Empire: An Alternative History (Berkley: University of California Press, 2014) for South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 38, no. 2 (2015): 351-52.

Sandeep Banerjee “Landscaping India: From Colony to Postcolony” (PhD Thesis: Syracuse University, 2013), Dissertation Reviews, February, 2015.

2012    Richard Hornsey, The Spiv and the Architect: Unruly Life in Postwar London (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010) Gender, Place & Culture 19, no.1 (2012): 121-23.

2011    Mariam Dossal, Theatre of Conflict, City of Hope: Bombay/Mumbai, 1660 to Present Times (Bombay: Oxford University Press, 2010) Urban Studies 48, no.11 (2011): 2429-31.

2006    (in German) Río-Álvaro, Constanza Del und Luis Miguel García-Mainar, eds. Memory, Imagination and Desire in Contemporary Anglo-American Literature and (Heidelberg: Winter Verlag, 2004) KULT_online, 11 August 2006.


Report Commissioned by the Government of West Bengal, India

2011    Co-authored with Paromita Chakravarti, Imagined Homes: Homeless People Envision Shelters (Kolkata: The Calcutta Samaritans, 2011).


Public Scholarship:
2020    Co-authored with Megnaa Mehtta, “More Than Rising Water: Living Tenuously in the Sundarbans. Part 1,” The Diplomat and “Is the Managed Retreat Plan for the Sundarbans Misguided? Part 2,” The Diplomat

2020    Co-authored with Megnaa Mehtta, “Shifting Lives in the Mangrove: Is Concrete the Way Forward,” The Telegraph

2020  Co-authored with Banu Subrahmaniam, “A Viral Education: Scientific Lessons from India’s WhatsApp University,” Somatosphere

2020  Co-authored with Banu Subrahmaniam, “Technofascism in India,” n+1.
(republished in Jessie Kindig, Mark Krotov and Marco Roth eds. There is no Outside: Covid19 Dispatches (New York: Verso 2020).

2020  Almanac of a Tide Country, Items SSRC (2020)

2018    Co-authored with Seth Denbo, “When a Journal is a Scam: Predatory Journals and Scholarship as Public Good,” Perspectives in History.

2018   Introduction “Discovery of India(s): Resisting the National Biography,” special issue edited by Arvind Elangovan in South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 41, no. 3 (2018): 601-604,  doi:10.1080/00856401.2018.1485621.

2017  Co-authored with Adam Knowles, “Ideal Subject of Totalitarianism,” Revue des femmes philosophes, 127-138

2017   “Arbit” Special Issue on Everyday Keywords in South Asia, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 40, no. 2 (2017): 279-80.

2017    “Being River: The Law, the Person and the Unthinkable,” World Legal History, H-Law.

2017    “Soaking Ecologies: Rethinking Asian Urbanism,” International Institute of Asian Studies Newsletter, 76.

2016    “Manufactured Landscapes: Law and Hydraulics in the Bengal Delta,” Technology Stories: Past and Present, June 2016.

2012   (in Bengali) “Wall Street Theke,” Anandabazar Patrika, November 6, 2012.


Other Media:
-    Interview: “Archives of Economic Lives, Cambridge University
-    Podcast: “Climate History,” (Forthcoming May 2021).
-    Movie Research and Appearance, “Morris and Indigo: Drexel’s Collection,”
-    Podcast: “Technofascism in India” Tech Won’t Save Us:
-    Podcast: “The Science of Planning: Notes from Indian Economic History” at the HPPE Seminar, London School of Economics, Episode 5 Ceteris non Paribus, The History of Economic Thought Podcast
-    Podcast: “A Naturally-Forming Harbor: Silt, Geological Testimony and the Bengal Delta,” Centre for South Asian Study Seminar, Cambridge University.


Weiterführende Informationen

Debjani Bhattacharyya

Prof. Dr. Debjani Bhattacharyya

Office RAE 219
debjani.bhattacharyya [at]
Tel.: +41 (0)44 634 36 60

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University of Zurich
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