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.
The modules I (have) taught / teach at NUS:
Other teaching interests:
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.
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’.
Book reviews, small entries, jottings