Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

Debjani Bhattacharyya — Climate Ledgers: Law and Imperial Finance in the Indian Ocean World

Friday, December 10, 2021

2:00pm - 4:00pm EST

McKinney Conference Room, 111 Thayer St

Debjani Bhattacharyya, PhD, explores the intersection of legal and environmental history. Professor Bhattacharyya’s 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. The book documents how legal experimentation through the 18th and 19th century was central to reshaping the political economy of urban land and waterscapes in the Bengal delta. Through an environmentally grounded history of the urban land market, it argues that ecological change influenced practices of land speculation, urban planning and property law and shows how marshes were transformed into speculative property in the Bengal Delta.

You can hear Professor Bhattacharyya discuss her book Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta: The Making of Calcutta (July 2020), and talk about her other research, including Urbanism at Water’s Edge: The Fluid Histories of Property in Calcutta (May 2020), and Empire and Ecology (July 2020).

Currently, she is a fellow at the Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania. She is at work on her second book, Monsoon Landscapes: Credit, Climate and Calamity, about the long history of how marine insurance market’s risk apprehensions 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 program of 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.

South Asia Seminar