Rochona Majumdar

Associate Professor, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, Department of Cinema and Media Studies, and the College.
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Foster Hall 213
(773) 834-2966

PhD, University of Chicago

Rochona Majumdar is a historian of modern India. Her interests span histories of Indian cinema, gender and marriage in colonial India, postcolonial history and theory, and intellectual history.

Majumdar’s first book, Marriage and Modernity: Family Values in Colonial Bengal (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009; New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009), challenges the assumption that arranged marriage is an antiquated practice.  During the late colonial period Bengali marriage practices underwent changes that led to a valorization of the large, inter-generational family as a revered, ‘ancient’, social institution, with arranged marriage as the apotheosis of an ‘Indian’ tradition. Marriage and Modernity documents the ways in which these newly embraced ‘traditions’—the extended family and arranged marriage—entered into competition and conversation with other emerging forms of kinship such as the modern unit of the couple, with both models participating promiscuously in the new ‘marketplace’ for marriages, where matrimonial advertisements in the print media and the payment of dowry played central roles. 

Her second book, Writing Postcolonial History (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010), is the first book to comprehensively analyze the impact of postcolonial theory on history writing. The book covers an array of historical writings ranging from histories of the Middle Ages to contemporary empires, from settler colonialism to issues of race, gender, and migration.

Currently, Majumdar is engaged in writing a history of Indian art cinema.  She focuses on the ways in which filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, and Mrinal Sen, reflected on their practice as ‘good’ ‘meaningful’ cinema.  These conceptions were often at odds with the ways in which their films were received.  Majumdar pays close attention to the film society scene in India as a densely documented space to study film reception.



Civilizing Emotions: Concepts in Asia and Europe, 1870- 1920, ed. Helge Jordheim, Margrit Pernau, Rochona Majumdar, Margrit Pernau, et al. (OUP: London, 2015).

Writing Postcolonial History. (London: Bloomsbury Academic publishing, 2010).

Marriage and Modernity: Family Values in Colonial Bengal. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009; New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009).

From the Colonial to the Postcolonial: India and Pakistan in Transition, ed. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Rochona Majumdar & Andrew Sartori, (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Recent Articles:

Art Cinema: The Indian Career of a Global Category”, Critical Inquiry (forthcoming).

“Song Times and the Time of Narratives in Indian Films”, (under preparation for a special issue of boundary 2).

“I want to be Topshe” in Boria Majumdar ed. Feluda @ 50, New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2015, pp.  77- 89.

“Thinking through Transition: Marxist Histories in India”, in Edward Quingjia Wang and Georg Iggers eds., Marxist Histories: A Global Perspective, London: Routledge, pp. 193- 218.

“Subaltern Studies as a history of Social Movements in India” South Asia, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 50- 68.

“From Civilizational Heroism to Universal Humanity” in Helge Jordheim, Rochona Majumdar, Margrit Pernau, et al. Civilizing Emotions: Concepts in Asia and Europe, 1870- 1920, OUP: London, 2015, pp. 207- 228.

“Looking for Brides and Grooms.” Reprinted in Tanika and Sumit Sarkar eds., Caste in Modern India, New Delhi: Permanent Black/ Bloomington: Indiana University Press (forthcoming)

“Debating Radical Cinema: A History of the Film Society Movement in India”, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 46, part 2, May 2012, pp. 731-67.

“A Conceptual History of the Social: Some Reflections out of Colonial Bengal” in Michael Dodson and Brian Hatcher eds., Transcolonial Modernities in South Asia, London: Routledge, pp. 169- 188.

With Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Gandhi’s Gita and Politics As Such,” Modern Intellectual History, Vol. 7, no. 2, 2010, pp. 335-353. (peer reviewed)

Reprinted in Shruti Kapila and Faisal Devji eds., Political Thought in Action: The Bhagavad Gita and Modern India, New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 66-87.

Marriage, Family, and Property in India: the Hindu Succession Act of 1956, South Asian History and Culture, Vol. 1, no. 3, 2010, pp. 397- 415. (peer reviewed)

With Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Mangal Pandey: Film and History,” Economic and Political Weekly, Special Issue on 1857, April 15, 2007, pp. 1771- 1778. Reprinted in 1857: Essays from Economic and Political Weekly, Orient Longman, 2008, pp. 303-328.

“Family Values in Transition: Debates on the Hindu Code Bill,” in From the Colonial to the Postcolonial: India and Pakistan in Transition.  Editors, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Rochona Majumdar & Andrew Sartori, pp. 223- 240, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007.

“Snehalata’s Death: Dowry and Women’s Agency in Colonial Bengal,” The Indian Economic and Social History Review, October- December, Vol. 41, no.4, 2004, pp. 433-464. (peer reviewed)

“Looking for Brides and Grooms: Ghataks, Matrimonials and the Marriage Market in Bengal, c. 1875- 1940,” Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 63, no. 4, November, 2004, pp. 911-935. (peer reviewed)

“History of Women’s Rights: A Non-Historicist Reading,” Economic and Political Weekly, 30 May, 2003, pp. 2130- 2134.

“Self-Sacrifice” versus “Self-Interest”: A Non-Historicist Reading of the History of Women’s Rights in India,” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. XXII, nos. 1-2, 2002, pp. 20- 36. (peer reviewed)

“Writing the Self: Rassundari Dasi’s Amar Jiban”, in The Calcutta Historical Journal, Volumes XIX-XX (combined), 1997- 1998, pp. 13- 34. (peer reviewed)

Courses Taught

On Cinema:
  • Bollywood and Beyond
  • A historical introduction to Indian Cinema
  • Radical Cinema in India: An Introduction
On Gender:
  • Love, Conjugality, and Capital: Comparative Perspectives from Africa and India (co-taught with Jennifer Cole)
  • Liberalism and Feminism in India
  • Problems in the Study of Gender
  • Problems in the Study of Sexuality
On Indian History:
  • South Asian Civilizations
  • Critics of Inequality in India
  • South Asia as an Unit of Study

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