Rochona Majumdar

Rochona Majumdar Associate Professor
Departments of Cinema and Media Studies, South Asian Languages and Civilizations
Office: Foster Hall 213
Phone: (773) 834-2966
Fax: (773) 834-3254

Rochona Majumdar is a historian of modern India. Her interests span histories of Indian cinema, gender and marriage in colonial India, and Indian intellectual thought in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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. Majumdar argues that together the kinship structures newly asserted as distinctively Indian and the emergence of the marriage market constituted what was and still is modern about marriages in India.

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. It introduces readers to the political and cultural contexts under which this mode of history writing first arose in the Anglophone world. 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 two projects. The first is a history of the film society movement in India from 1947, the year of India’s independence from British rule and partition to 1977 the year that the emergency declared by Mrs. Gandhi ended. The project analyzes the interface between civil social organizations like cine clubs to a mass medium—cinema--and relates film society practices to the rise of new kinds of film-making in India.

The second project is an intellectual history of key concepts such as society, civility, and civilization in the Hindu and Muslim Bengali contexts during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


  • Ph.D., University of Chicago

Publications Include:


  • Writing Postcolonial History. (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010).
  • Marriage and Modernity: Family Values in Colonial Bengal. Durham: Duke University press, 2009.
  • Marriage and Modernity: Family Values in Colonial Bengal. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • From the Colonial to the Postcolonial: India and Pakistan in Transition. Editors, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Rochona Majumdar & Andrew Sartori, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Articles and Contributions to Edited Volumes

  • "'Art Cinema': The Indian career of a Global category" Critical Inquiry (forthcoming)
  • "Subaltern Studies as a History of Social Movements in India", South Asia, (forthcoming)
  • "From Civilizational Heroism to an Ethic of Universal Humanity" in Pernau, M., Jordheim, H., Saada, E., Bailey, C., Wigen, E., Bashkin, O., Kia, M., Singh, M., Majumdar, R., Messner, A., Benesh, O., Park, M., Ifversen, J. Civilizing Emotions. Concepts in Asia and Europe, 1870-1920. (forthcoming from Oxford University Press, UK)
  • "Thinking through Transition: Marxist Historiography in India" in Georg Iggers and Edward Quingjia Kang eds., Marxist Historiography: Global Perspectives, Routledge: UK (forthcoming)
  • "Debating radical cinema: A history of the film society movement in India," Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 46, part 3, May 2012, pp. 731- 767. 
  • "A Conceptual History of the Social: Some Reflections from Colonial Bengal," in Michael Dodson and Brian Hatcher edited,Transcolonial Modernities in South Asia (London: Routledge), pp. 165-188, 2012.
  • With Dipesh Chakrabarty, "Gandhi’s Gita and Politics As Such," Modern Intellectual History, volume 7: 2, pp. 335-353.
  • "Marriage, Family, and Property in India: A Colonial Genealogy," South Asian History and Culture, Vol. 1: 3, pp. 397-415.
  • "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, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • 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.
  • "Snehalata’s Death: Dowry and Women’s Agency in Colonial Bengal," The Indian Economic and Social History Review, October-December, 41:4, 2004, pp. 433-464.
  • "Looking for Brides and Grooms: Ghataks, Matrimonials and the Marriage Market in Bengal, c. 1875- 1940," Journal of Asian Studies, November, 2004, pp. 911-935.
  • "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.
  • "Writing the Self: Rassundari Dasi’s Amar Jiban", in The Calcutta Historical Journal, Volumes XIX-XX (combined), pp. 13- 34.

Review Essays (peer reviewed)

  • Love and Marriage in the Public Sphere, Journal of Women's History (forthcoming)
  • "Arguments within Indian Feminism" Social History, Volume 32 - Issue 4 - November 2007 - pp. 434 – 445.
  • "Understanding Marriage Dowry,", 2004, no. 2.

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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