FASS Staff Profile



Brief Introduction

Born and educated in Calcutta (now Kolkata), my fascination for stories about the Sundarbans, the largest natural habitat of Bengal tigers – famous for their man-eating habits – eventually led me to anthropology. I undertook fieldwork for nearly two years (between 1999 and 2001) in the West Bengal Sundarbans and was awarded a PhD in Anthropology at the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2004. I taught and lectured at the departments of Anthropology, London School of Economics, Goldsmiths College and the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) for a short period of time before embarking (between 2007 and 2009), with Professors Joya Chatterji and Claire Alexander, on a post-doctoral research on the ‘Bengal Muslim Disapora’ funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UK.

This was followed by research fellowships in a series of exciting places: the Agrarian Studies Program, Yale University, New Haven; the International Institute for Social History (IISH), Amsterdam; the International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden; Jawaharlal Nehru Institute for Advanced Studies (JNIAS) at the JNU, New Delhi; and, more recently, the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Cambridge, UK.

Teaching Areas

The modules I (have) taught / teach at NUS:

  • GEM1913 Beasts, People and Wild Environments
  • SN2234 Gender and Society in South Asia
  • SN2271 Religion and Society in South Asia
  • SN1101E South Asia: People, Culture, Development

Other teaching interests:

  • Introducing Anthropology
  • The anthropology of human-animal relations
  • Conservation issues and social justice
  • Gender and sexuality; Kinship and society
  • Religion (especially South Asian forms of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Sikkhism)

Current Research

My current research is on subaltern identity, social mobility and religion in the last forty years in Bangladesh and West Bengal. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, interviews with individuals from resettled and marginalised communities, I explore what it means to be Bengali when one is not elite.

Research Interests

My first book Forest of Tigers: People, Politics and Environment in the Sundarbans (Routledge, 2010) brings together both academic as well as socio-political concerns via a study of the human/non-human interface in the mangrove islands of the southern part of the Bengal delta which are the Sundarbans.

My second book The Bengal Diaspora: Muslim migrants in India, Britain and Bangladesh (Routledge, 2015), co-authored with Professors Joya Chatterji (Trinity, University of Cambridge) and Claire Alexander (University of Manchester), is about the experiences of the Bengali and Bihari Muslims who left India for East Pakistan after 1947 when India was partitioned; for the purposes of this research I conducted fieldwork in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, between 2006 and 2009. In a bid for our work to be disseminated to the wider public we have launched, along with the help of the Runnymede Foundation, a website (www.banglastories.org/) where through various life-stories and pictorial narratives, high-school students, principally British-Bangladeshi ones, can get a greater sense of the histories of their ancestors, explore phases of migration and settlement, and understand the shifting formations of ‘community’. 



  • Books
    • Forest of Tigers: People, Politics and Environment in the Sundarbans, Routledge: New Delhi, London, New York (2010).
    • Co-author with Joya Chatterji and Claire Alexander, ‘The Bengal Diaspora: Muslim migrants in India, Britain and Bangladesh.’ (Routledge: London 2015)


    • ‘Bengali ‘Bihari’ Muharram: The Identitarian Trajectories of a Community’, SüdasienChronik South  Asia  Chronicle  3/2013,  S.  8‐41. Humboldt‐Universität  zu  Berlin.
    • ‘Braving Crocodiles with Kali: Being a prawn-seed collector and a modern woman in the 21st century Sundarbans’, Socio-Legal Review, Vol. 6, 2010.
    • ‘Unmasking the Cosmopolitan Tiger’, Nature and Culture, (vol. 3, no. 1, 2008), pp. 25-40.
    • ‘The Sundarbans: Whose World Heritage Site?’, Conservation and Society, (vol. 5, no. 4, 2007).
    • ‘Dwelling on Morichjhanpi: When Tigers Became ‘Citizens’, Refugees ‘Tiger-Food’’; Special Article in Economic and Political Weekly, April 23 2005, pp. 1757 – 1762. Also reproduced in: http://sanhati.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/jalais-morichjhanpi.pdf; translated into Bengali (by Padmini Chakrabarty) in Marichjhanpi: Chhinya Desh, Chhinya Itihas, ed. Madhumay Pal, 2009, pp. 206 – 224, Gangchil, Kolkata; and in Adal Badal, 2006, Bimal Biswas, Kolkata.

    Book Chapters

    • ‘Geographies and Identities: Subaltern Partition Stories along Bengal’s Southern Frontier’, chapter for book on Borderland Lives in Northern South Asia, ed. by David N. Gellner, published by Duke University Press: Durham, NC, December 2013.
    • ‘Linguistic Minorities’ (with a focus on Urdu-speakers) 2009, chapter in Human Rights in Bangladesh 2008: Dashed Hopes, Receding Horizons, New Frontiers; Ain-O-Salish Kendra, Dhaka (Bengali: http://www.askbd.org/HR_report_bangla/18.pdf; English: http://www.askbd.org/hr_report2008/17_LINGUSTIC.pdf)

    Book reviews, small entries, jottings

    • Book review of Anand Pandian’s Crooked Stalks: Cultivating Virtue in South India. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009) for Pacific Affairs, March 2011, Volume 84, No. 1.
    • ‘Islam’s Bengali Avatar’, Global: the international briefing, April 2011; http://www.global-briefing.org/2011/04/islam’s-bengali-avatar-2/
    • ‘Sajnekhali’, chapter in First Proof 6, Penguin: New Delhi, New York, October, 2010.
    • ‘Confronting Authority, Negotiating Morality: tiger prawn seed collection in the Sundarbans’, International Collective in Support of Fishworkers,[http://icsf.net/icsf2006/uploads/publications/yemaya/pdf/english/issue_32/art01.pdf]; Yemaya, 32, Nov 2009. (Also translated in French: http://base.d-p-h.info/en/fiches/dph/fiche-dph-8148.html)
    • ‘Bonbibi: Bridging Worlds’, Indian Folklore, serial no. 28, Jan 2008
    • Sundarboner prem (‘Sundarban’s Prem’ -prem being both a person’s name as well as meaning ‘love’), in Korak (a monthly periodical on art and literature), Kolkata, Sept. 2000.
    • La séparation et l’amour dans les chants bhaoaiya des femmes du Bengale du Nord, Inde. (‘Separation and love in Bhaoaiya songs of women of north Bengal, India’). DREA, INALCO, Paris.
    • Entry on ‘Bengalis’, Encyclopedia of the World’s Minorities, ed. Carl Skutsch, Routledge, 2004.

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