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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2020/21 Dr. Debjani Bhattacharyya

Dr. Debjani Bhattacharyya

Drexel University
History
External Junior Fellow
March 2021 - July 2021

CV

Debjani Bhattacharyya research is driven by the desire to understand how legal and economic structures order our conceptualization of environmental transformations and shape how we respond to climate crisis. Her book, Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta: The Making of Calcutta (Cambridge University Press, 2018) won the 2019 honorable mention for the best book in Urban History. She is at work on her second book, Climate Future’s Past: Law and Weather Knowledge in the Indian Ocean World. This book is about the long history of how marine insurance market’s risk assessment shaped weather knowledge, colonial oceanographic sciences and a derivatives market in climate futures in the Indian Ocean Region. She is a member of the Collaborative Platform of Ocean Space and an international collaborator in the Narrative Science Project, London School of Economics. Her research has been supported by American Institute of Indian Studies, The History Project funded by the Joint Centre for History and Economics, Harvard University, and Social Science Research Council. She held visiting fellowships at International Institute of Asian Studies (Leiden), Max-Planck-Institute for Legal History (Frankfurt) and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies, Princeton University.


Selected Publications

  • Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta: The Making of Calcutta. Studies in Environment and History Series (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018) https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108348867
  • “Indian City and its ‘Restive Publics’: A Review Essay,” Modern Asian Studies53, no. 4 (2020), 1-31. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X19000301(invited).
  • “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.”https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-8186038
  • “Land Dispossession in South Asia,” TheOxford Research Encyclopedia for Asian Studies. ed. David Ludden (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019). DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.013.189
  • “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


FRIAS Research Project

Balzan Project in Global History: Monsoon Landscapes. Law and Climate Science in the Indian Ocean World

My current project is a concept-history of cyclones as objects of scientific knowledge production, actuarial practices and the administration of law. I chart the entangled developments of marine insurance, tidal science and climatology from the eighteenth century by mining legal records alongside meteorological accounts and scientific treatises. My archival research on the history of insurance and the development of colonial weather science shows that much of the early history of weather and tidal science’s entanglements with insurance industries took place along the littorals of Caribbean Seas, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. Not only did these areas become nodes from and through which vast amounts of imperial goods, capital and indentured laborers crisscrossed the world, but they also incubated global financial and actuarial experiments away from the shadows of the 1720 Bubble Act and financial regulations. Overturning the dominant binaries of metropolitan/colonial I ask how we write scalar histories that recover the littoral geographies of the Indian Ocean as nested within plural legal jurisdictions and financial networks? How do we begin investigating from the conjunctures that brought insurance, law and science together in the Marine Courts in Britain’s eastern colonies? Climate Future’s Pastuses the analytic of chronoscape to argue that networks of credit and risk shaped both the contours and content of climate science.