Indrani Chatterjee F'15, F'04

Indrani  Chatterjee
Professor
History
University of Texas at Austin

ACLS Fellowship Program 2015
Professor
History
University of Texas at Austin
The Widows' Might: Lay-Monastic Partnerships and Colonial Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century India

This project reads heteroglot literary narratives and photographs for traces of architectural and geographic evidence. These traces provide outlines of fortified monastic warehouses at key sites in eastern India in the late eighteenth century. The project then locates representative widows as patrons of this infrastructure. Hailing from eminent zamindari Hindu and Muslim households, these widows gifted trade goods to men from Hindu, Buddhist, and Sufi monastic lineages, and sustained other women who, in turn, depended on the monastic men. These overlapping partnerships formed the core of portfolio capitalism. The monastic men traded the gifts and returned profits both to their monastic heads as well as to their lay investors. In the early nineteenth century, as colonial capitalism edged out portfolio capitalism, the multiple partnerships frayed. Their complex histories illuminate the spate of widows’ suicides (sati) that occurred in the region in the nineteenth century.

Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars 2004
Associate Professor
History
Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Slaves, Souls and Subjects in South Asia
For residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies

This project attempts to uncover an occluded history of slavery in South Asia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It attempts to locate this occlusion within the epistemologies of colonial ethnographers, for whom African systems provided the definitive grids of enslavement. However, the project also excavates the existence of war-captives and bonded debtors in local societies on the borders between India and Burma. It traces their attempts to emancipate themselves with the aid of local Christian missionaries, and uncovers the colonial government's refusal of aid to both slaves and missionaries alike.