sanjukta das gupta

New Guest Researcher, Sanjukta Das Gupta

Sanjukta Das Gupta is a guest researcher at the Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies in May 2022. She is working on a book project on “Understanding ‘indigeneity’ in Jharkhand, eastern India: British colonial knowledge and post-colonial reconstructions of ‘tribes’ (1800-1980)”.

Sanjukta is an Associate Professor of Indian History at the Department of Oriental Studies (Istituto Italiano di Studi Orientali), Sapienza University of Rome. She has published on agrarian and environmental history, the social history of marginalized communities, women and emerging identities in colonial and contemporary South Asia. She is the author of Adivasis and the Raj: Socio-economic Transition of the Hos, 1820-1932 (2022, 2013, 2011) and has co-edited In Quest of the Historian’s Craft: Essays in Honour of Prof. B.B. Chaudhuri (2018), Subjects, Citizens, and Law: Colonial and Postcolonial India (2017), Narratives from the Margins: Aspects of Adivasi History in India (2019, 2012) and Narratives of the Excluded: Caste Issues in Colonial India (2008). Her current research interests focus on the histories of representation of marginalized communities of South Asia and tribal kingship and authority in pre-colonial India.

Her research project at the Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Post-colonial Studies addresses the question of how colonial knowledge have informed, and continue to shape, local identities and subjectivities among indigenous communities in colonial and post-colonial eastern India. Through an analysis of governmental archival documents, private records and field work in the contemporary eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, this project traces the impact of global trends and power relations in local cultures, thereby demonstrating the inter-relatedness between the two.

It demonstrates that colonial representations reflected pervasive imperial ideologies, as well as the prejudices and beliefs of local hierarchies in the region, ground realities and administrative necessity. Colonial and postcolonial attitudes towards Adivasis, thus, were not monolithic nor fixed and tended to differ significantly across space and time. It also argues that indigenous self-representations both derived from and influenced colonial categorizations. This linkage to colonial knowledge becomes particularly significant in the context of contemporary assertions of indigenous rights by the ‘tribal’ or Adivasi communities

Through an examination of how ideas on ethnicity, history, circulated within intra-imperial space, the project underlines the multiplicity of global and indigenous influences which went into the construction of local identities. By engaging with the evolution of Adivasi rights, cultural rootedness, and geographical locatedness, it provides a critical understanding of the Adivasi confrontation with modernity.