My research interests lie in Modern and Early Modern South Asia, in the area of labor history. My book, based on my doctoral dissertation, explores the period between 1860 and 1910 recasting historical understandings of the relationship between the colonial state, technology, and labor. Drawing on state archives, photographs and paintings, my research provides a nuanced and detailed account of the impact of the transformation in maritime technology on everyday working lives, social worlds, and political expression of Calcutta’s port labor force. In my book, I analyze how expanding state power and the shift from sail to steam became crucial for the formalization of a largely informal workforce. I argue that the arrival of steam ships forced the state to bring the port’s workforce under tighter control in order to provide a compliant labor force, needed for the quicker turnaround of ships made necessary by the economics of steam technology. This research contributes to multiple fields in South Asian historiography. It addresses the field of South Asian labor history with my unique focus on dockworkers. My observations on the relationship between technological change and class conflict contribute to research on questions of class formation. My research also contributes to the history of Indian science and technology. In addition to discussing how European technologies transformed the working lives of Indian labor, I examine evidence that suggest that these same workers played their part in the determining of the kinds of technologies that India’s British masters introduced. Finally, this study contributes to the field of urban history, particularly to the study of Calcutta through a shift in focus from the city streets and parlors to its economic heart that lay along the waterfront.
Currently, I am working on two additional books on Indian labor history. Tentatively titled Shunting the Nation: Railwaymen in the Making of India and Pakistan, 1939-1949, it draws on government documents, newspaper records and memoirs to examine the part played by these workers in India’s war effort during the Second World War, and India’s freedom struggle. This research also examines class conflict, discussing strikes as well as everyday conflict. I also examine the part played by railway workers in India’s partition, discussing both stories of heroism as well as episodes when railway workers collaborated in the massacre of passengers. Finally, I discuss evidence from the post-1947 period when railwaymen in both India and Pakistan played an extraordinary role in ensuring the survival of their newly created countries. Evidence suggests that Indian railway workers were at best reluctant partners in India’s mainstream freedom struggle. Indian railway unions were careful to distance their members from the official campaigns of the Indian National Congress, though providing their movements with moral support. This book will contribute to the historiography of Indian nationalism by exploring this disjuncture between a workforce that significantly contributed to the establishment of free India and Pakistan, but stayed away from the mainstream freedom struggle. I have already completed preliminary research for this project, including an archival trip to India. Writing of my manuscript is currently underway with a timeline of completing the manuscript by 2020. The second project, tentatively titled Military Labor in Eighteenth Century India seeks to compare the efforts of European trading companies and the successor states of the Mughal Empire to recruit from India’s military labor markets. I am also interested in uncovering what Indian soldiers made of the changing nature of warfare and state power in eighteenth century India. Preliminary research has commenced with a goal to have a manuscript ready by 2023.
Class Conflict and Modernization: The Raj and the Calcutta
Waterfront, (London and New York: Routledge, 2018)
“The Modernization of a Port in British India,” in Patrick
Haughey and Robin Williams Ed. The Architecture of Trade, Routledge, (London
and New York: Routledge, 2018)
“Science and Technology in India: The Digression of Asia and
Europe,” History Compass (February 2007)
“From Lady Hughes to Enrica Lexie,” Gateway House: Indian
Council of Global Relations, 19 April 2013, stable URL http://www.gatewayhouse.in/from-lady-hughes-to-enrica-lexie/
“Historical Perspectives on Piracy: The British Empire in the
Persian Gulf,” Gateway House: Indian Council of Global Relations, 19 April
2013, stable URL http://www.gatewayhouse.in/historical-perspectives-on-piracy-the-british-empire-in-the-persian-gulf/
“Atherosho Shotabdir Duti Bidroho: Bharotborshe Ingrej Rajjer
Sthapona” [Two Mutinies of the Eighteenth Century: Categorizing the rise of
British power in India], Sri Krishna Sanghabarta (September 2010)
“Swami Vivekananda and the Modernization of Hinduism,” Sri
Krishna Sanghabarta (September 2006)
Boston Breakthroughs: 400 Years of Social and Nonprofit
Innovations, co-authored with Dr. Robert M. Krim and Susan Wilson, (Boston, MA:
Boston History Collaborative, 2004)
History 105: World History (Asian Perspectives) 1200-1800History 106: World History (Asian Perspectives) 1800-PresentHistory 201: Historian’s CraftHistory 263: A Global History of FashionHistory 265: The Story of IndiaHistory 269: A Global History of Working PeopleHistory 337: Islam and the Modern Middle EastHistory 338: East Asia on the World StageHistory 339: Topics in African HistoryHistory 428: Muslim Kings with Non-Muslim Subjects
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