Debjani Bhattacharyya, PhD

Assistant Professor of History

Debjani Bhattacharyya, PhD

Office: 5025 MacAlister Hall
Phone: 215.895.0992

Curriculum Vitae:

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  • PhD, History, Emory University, 2014
  • MA, Literature, Jadavpur University, (India), 2013


Debjani Bhattacharyya joins the Department of History and Politics as the Assistant Professor of History from Fall 2014, after receiving her PhD from Emory University. In 2014-15 she is also a Visiting Associate Scholar at the South Asia Center at University of Pennsylvania. Her research and teaching explores the ways in which urban, environmental and economic histories intertwine in what is increasingly known as spatial history or historical geography.


She is working on her first book manuscript Fictions of Possession: Property, Law and Authority in the Bengal Delta which studies creation of a market in urban land as a central project of colonial urbanism in modern South Asia. Broadly, it charted the birth of a specific juridical notion of property bolstered by an economic narrative of use shedding light upon colonial liberalism’s unsettled relation to property rights. During her research she was also involved in an ethnographic project for documenting how homeless people in Kolkata envisioned their rights to the city. Her research was awarded the Junior Fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies and The History Project funded by the Joint Centre for History and Economics, Harvard University (USA) and Cambridge University (UK).


Prof. Bhattacharyya is also interested in the transnational financial history of the early-modern and colonial maritime world of the Bay of Bengal region by exploring litigations, petitions, letters and private papers of merchants and traders. Moving beyond great thinkers, she is interested in tracking the history of the formation of financial ideas that permeated the everyday life of early-modern and colonial Bay of Bengal. Prof. Bhattacharyya will be teaching courses on South Asian History, Indian Ocean History, Colonial and Postcolonial Urban Studies and Global Environmental History.



  • ‘Geography’s Myth: The Many Origins of Calcutta’ in Gyanendra Pandey, ed., Unarchived Histories: The mad and the trifling in the colonial and postcolonial world (New York: Routledge, 2013), 144-158.
  • ‘Nation-less Bodies and National Identity in Jyotirmoyee Devi’s Epar Ganga Opar Ganga’ in Ansgar Nünning, Birgit Neumann and Bo Petersson, eds., Narrative and Identity: Theoretical Approaches and Critical Analyses (Trier: Wissenschaftler Verlag Trier, 2008), 127-140.
    • ‘Of Shadows and Silences: Militant Nationalism in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines’ in Klaus Stierstorfer and Annette Kern-Stähler, eds., Literary Encounters of Fundamentalism: A Case Book (Heidelberg: Winter Verlag, 2008), 75-88.
  • Book Review: The Spiv and the Architect: Unruly Life in Postwar London by Richard Hornsey (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010) for Gender, Place & Culture 19, no.1 (2012): 121-123.
  • Book Review: Theatre of Conflict, City of Hope: Bombay/Mumbai, 1660 to Present Times by Mariam Dossal (Bombay: Oxford University Press, 2010) for Urban Studies 48, no.11 (2011): 2429-2431.
  • Book Review: Memory, Imagination and Desire in Contemporary Anglo-American Literature and Film eds. Río-Álvaro, Constanza Del und Luis Miguel García-Mainar,  (Heidelberg: Winter Verlag, 2004) for KULT_online, August 2006 (in German).