Debjani Ganguly

Director of the IHGC, Co-Director of the Humanities Informatics Lab, and Professor of English


122 Wilson Hall

Research Interests: Postcolonial Studies, World Literature, South Asian Studies, Global Anglophone Novel, Literary Forms in the New Media Age, Caste and Dalit studies, Indian Ocean Literary Worlds (1750-1950), Literature, War and Human Rights

I currently work on global and world literatures. I have recently published a book with Duke University Press on the contemporary world novel with a focus on transnational works dealing with the global immanence of terror, warfare and genocide. Entitled This Thing Called the World: The Contemporary Novel as Global Form, the book reprises the novel’s historical links to distant suffering and technologies of mediation - the staple of debates on the sentimental novel and the rise of Abolitionism in the late 18th century - in the context of the emergence of a critical mass of works written against the backdrop of contemporary sites of geopolitical carnage. Works on the Palestinian crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Kashmir issue, post-9/11 America, and the Rwanda genocide, feature as case studies. 

I have published essays on Indian language worlds and Dalit lifestories in The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature (2011) and The Cambridge Companion to Modern Indian Culture (2012) respectively, and have co-edited a special issue of the Routledge journal in theoretical humanities, Angelaki, on the theme, ‘Limits of the Human’ (2011). This volume offers a range of critical perspectives on the ‘human’ as a limit case against the backdrop of catastrophic climate change, large-scale mediatization of global wars and the materialist informatics of our digital worlds. Two other edited volumes on postcolonial and global studies include Edward Said: The Legacy of a Public Intellectual (2007), and Rethinking Gandhi and Nonviolent Relationality: Global Perspectives (2007).

My first monograph, Caste, Colonialism and Counter-Modernity (2005), is both an intellectual history and a revisionist ethnography of caste and untouchability in India from the point of view of theoretical developments in the field of postcolonial studies. Spanning a period from the eighteenth century to the present, the book traces the discursive horizons of 'caste' from early colonial histories and anthropological tracts to contemporary dalit literature and postcolonial historiographical projects such as Subaltern Studies. It argues that caste is not so much an essence responsible for India's 'backwardness' as a constellation of variegated social practices that are in a constant state of flux and that cannot be completely contained in a narrative of nation-building, modernisation and development. What is offered in this analysis is not an endorsement of either the caste-system or casteism, but a resistance to the reified ways in which caste continues to figure in social scientific and nation-building discourses.

I am the general editor of a newly commissioned The Cambridge History of World Literature (2 volumes) and have recently edited a special issue of the journal South Asia on the theme 'The Subaltern after Subaltern Studies' (Vol 38, No.1, 2015). Other recent publications include essays on the novel after 1989, and the normative provenance of world literature in The Cambridge Companion to the Postcolonial Novel (2015) and The Values of Literary Studies (2015) respectively.  I co-edit with Ato Quayson and Neil Ten Kortenaar the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry.