For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Debjani Bhattacharyya, PhD

Debjani Bhattacharyya, PhD

Assistant Professor of History
Department of History
Department of Global Studies and Modern Languages
Office: 5025 MacAlister Hall
Phone: 215.895.0992

On Leave Fall/Winter 2019-20
2019-2020 Visiting Fellow at the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies, Princeton University


  • PhD, History, Emory University, 2014
  • MA, Literature, Jadavpur University, 2003

Curriculum Vitae:

Download [PDF]

Research Interests:

Modern South Asian history, urban environmental history, legal history, history of economic thought and subaltern studies


My current research addresses two broad questions: how environment and ecological formations shaped law and economy from the eighteenth century onwards; and how the contingencies through which legal and economic imaginaries developed and globalized across the world in turn reshaped colonial environments. In particular I am interested in tracing how the specific geography of the colony, its rivers, seas, swamps, deltas and seasons, which were different from the temperate climate of Europe, shaped the legal and economic technologies during the period of European expansion and came to occupy the position of universal knowledge and science. I explore these themes from a South Asian perspective, especially by focusing on the Bay of Bengal delta, one of the active deltas connecting India and Bangladesh.

I am 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. My second project focuses on shipwrecks in the Bay of Bengal in order to investigate how climactic and environmental changes from the eighteenth century shaped ideas about risk and instruments of insurance of imperial trade.

As a graduate student I was also involved in an ethnographic project for documenting how homeless people in Kolkata envisioned their rights to the city. My 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). Before joining Drexel, I researched and taught at Jadavpur University (India), Heidelberg University (Germany) and Emory University (USA).

At Drexel I offer a range of courses on South Asian history, global environmental history, science and empire, environment and empire and legal history. My 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. I am also an elected member to the Professional Division of American Historical Association.

Selected Publications:


Peer-Reviewed Articles:

Refereed Book Chapters:

  •  ‘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.

Opinion Pieces/Studies/Entries: