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Dithi Mukherjee MA

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: Asian History, Colonialism & Postcolonialism, Environmental History

Cohort/Start PhD: 2023-2024

Natural Disasters and the Evolution of Environmental Perceptions in Bengal (India), c. 1818-1978

University of Groningen

Supervisors: Prof. Clemens Six, Dr. Anjana Singh

Duration of appointment: 1-12-2023 to 30-11-2027

The objective of this project is to analyze the continuous evolution of environmental perceptions in the Bengal Presidency (India) from the colonial to the postcolonial era (circa 1818-1978). By employing the major natural disasters as case studies and by studying the evolution of response patterns, this project aims to investigate what kind of local knowledge about the environment was developed through these events, and how that influenced the market, governmental policies and colonial state-building processes during the 19th-20th centuries. In this historical time period, when the local tropical village markets were gradually being incorporated into the global market economy, numerous draughts, famines, floods, and pandemics emerged in the tropical colonies. How did the local population respond to these natural disasters? How did these events influence the environmental perceptions amongst the local colonized subjects and the public sphere? What impacts did they have on the imperial government and the colonial policies? Bengal being an important South Asian trading region and the capital presidency of British India, played significant roles in establishing trans-imperial networks of information exchange, and in developing Western culture in the fields of media, education, art and literature. Such intellectual developments were particularly reflected in and facilitated by the production and circulation of print media. Hence, besides analyzing the archives of governmental office records, this project attempts to understand the evolution of the local environmental perception in Bengal by employing the archives of print media data. Addressing such evolution not only paves pathways to trace the roots of sustainable development but also promises us to better understand the politics-society-media interplay in the history of the Global South.