Photo courtesy Lorenza Strano
Rochona Majumdar is a historian of modern India with a focus on Bengal. Her writings span histories of gender and sexuality, Indian cinema especially art cinema and film music, and modern Indian intellectual history. Majumdar also writes on postcolonial history and theory.
Majumdar's first book, Marriage and Modernity: Family Values in Colonial Bengal challenges the assumption that arranged marriage is an antiquated practice. Through extensive and meticulous archival research, Majumdar demonstrates that in the late colonial period Bengali marriage practices underwent changes that led to a valorization of the larger, intergenerational family as a revered, “ancient” social institution, with arranged marriage as the apotheosis of an “Indian” tradition. Marriage and Modernity was shortlisted by the International Convention of Asia Scholars (Social Science short-list) in 2011.
Majumdar's interest in postcoloniality led to her second work, Writing Postcolonial History, where she analyzed the impact of postcolonial theory on historiography.
Her interests in the culture and aesthetics of mass democracy led Majumdar to study cinema, in particular Indian cinema. Her third book, Art Cinema and India's Forgotten Futures: Film and History in the Postcolony, is an analysis of global art cinema in independent India. It is also a book about art cinema as a mode of doing history in a postcolonial setting. Art Cinema and India's Forgotten Futures was awarded an Honorable Mention for the Modernist Studies Association Book Prize 2022, and commended for the Kraszna-Krausz Moving Image Book Award 2022.
Majumdar teaches and writes on conceptual and intellectual history. She is currently working on two projects. The first addresses subalternity, postcolonialism, and contemporary moves towards the decolonial. The second is a collaborative project funded by the University of Chicago Center in New Delhi. Majumdar is the principal investigator in this project entitled Enlightenment in the Colony: A Global history of the Hindoo/ Presidency College with Professors Upal Chakrabarti and Sukanya Sarbadhikary (Presidency University).
Majumdar’s work has been supported by the American Institute for Indian Studies and the Harry Frank Guggenheim foundation. She has been a faculty fellow at the Franke Institute for the Humanities, and a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Emotions, Berlin and IWM, Vienna.
Majumdar also writes for the Indian Express, Daily O, and Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). A more detailed list of Majumdar's publications are available on https://chicago.academia.edu/RMajumdar
Work with Students
Majumdar advises graduate students working on modern Indian history and culture. Her welcomes inquiries from graduate students interested in histories of Indian cinema, gender and sexuality, urban histories, and South Asian intellectual history. She advises a range of BA honors and Masters theses on similar themes. She serves on dissertation committees in the departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, Cinema and Media Studies, History, English, Anthropology, and the Divinity School.
Art Cinema and India's Forgotten Futures: Film and History in the Postcolony. New York: Columbia University Press, 2021. Winner of Chidananda Dasgupta Memorial Award for Best Writing on Cinema.
“Song Times, the Time of Narratives, and the Changing Idea of the Nation in Post-Independence Cinema.” Special issue on media archeology, Boundary 2. February 2022.
“Postcolonial Theory: Then and Now.” In The Routledge Companion to History and Theory, edited by C.M. van den Akker. October 2021.
“Writing Postcolonial History: Origins, Expansion, Challenges.” In New Approaches in History, edited by Peter Burke and Marek Tamm, 49–74. London: Bloomsbury Academic Publishing, 2018.
“Art Cinema: The Indian Career of a Global Category.” Critical Inquiry 42, no. 3 (Spring 2016): 580–610.
“Looking for Brides and Grooms: Ghataks, Matrimonials and the Marriage Market in Bengal, c. 1875–1940.” Journal of Asian Studies 63, no. 4 (November 2004): 911–935. Reprinted in Caste in Modern India, vol. 2, edited by Tanika and Sumit Sarkar, 133–166. New Delhi: Permanent Black; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014.
Affiliated Departments and Centers
- Department of History
- The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality
- Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory
- Stevanovich Institute for the Formation of Knowledge
- Committee on Southern Asian Studies
- Nicholson center for British Studies
- Screening India: Bollywood and Beyond
- South Asia as a Unit of Study
- Radical Cinema in India
- Gender and Sexuality in World Civilizations
- Liberalism and Feminism in India
- Film and the Moving Image