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Historisches Seminar

Debjani Bhattacharyya

Debjani Bhattacharyya

+41 (0) 44 634 36 60
Rämistrasse 64, CH-8001 Zürich

Debjani Bhattacharyya is the Professor for the History of the Anthropocene at the University of Zürich. Since 2019, she has been a non-residential fellow at the Center for the Advanced Study of India, at University of Pennsylvania. Before moving to UZH she was an Associate Professor of History and Urban Studies at Drexel University. Her work lies at the intersection of legal and environmental history. Her research is driven by the desire to understand how legal and economic structures order our conceptualization of environmental transformations and shape how we respond to climate crises. Her book, Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta: The Making of Calcutta (Cambridge University Press, 2018) won the 2019 honorable mention for the best book in Urban History. It documented how legal experimentation through the 18th and 19th century was central to reshaping the political economy of urban land and waterscapes in the Bengal Delta. Currently she is writing a long history of how marine insurance market’s risk apprehensions shaped weather knowledge, colonial oceanographic sciences and a derivatives market in climate futures in the Indian Ocean Region. 

Her work has been supported by the American Institute of Indian Studies, The History Project funded by the Joint Centre for History and Economics, Harvard University, and Social Science Research Council. She held visiting fellowships at the International Institute of Asian Studies (Leiden), Max-Planck-Institute for Legal History (Frankfurt), and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies, Princeton University. Her work has been published in the Journal of Social and Economic History of the Orient, Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Economic and Political Weekly, Global Environment, and Modern Asian Studies. She is the South Asia editor for History Compass. Her writings have also appeared in The Telegraph, Amrita Bajar Patrika, n+1, The Diplomat, and Somatosphere.

She is the director of the Digital History Lab and is the co-director of the Cultural Analysis Program at UZH.


Curiculum Vitae


2008- 2014    Ph.D. Emory University, USA.

2001- 2003    Master of Arts, Jadavpur University, India.

1998- 2001    Bachelor of Arts, Jadavpur University, India.


Professor and Chair of the History of the Anthropocene, University of Zürich

2020 - 2022   
Associate Professor, Department of History, Drexel University, USA. Affiliate Center for Science, Technology and Society (2020-22), Department of Global Studies and Modern Languages, (2017-22) and Urban Strategy (2016-22).

2014 – 2020 
Assistant Professor, Department of History, Drexel University, USA.



2022 (Summer)    
Senior Fellow, American Institute of Asian Studies (AIIS), Ashoka University, India.

2021 (Summer)    
Fellow, Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies (FRIAS), Freiburg University, Germany.

2020 -     
Non-Resident Fellow, Center for the Advanced Studies of India (CASI), University of Pennsylvania, USA.

2019 -- 2020    
Fellow, Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies, Princeton University, USA.

2016 – 2017     
Research Fellow, International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden University, The Netherlands.

2011 – 2012 
Junior Fellow of American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS), Center for Studies of Social Sciences, Kolkata, India.



  • Editorial Advisory Council, InterConnections: The Global 20th Century (Book Series), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (2024-2027)
  • Editor in Chief, History Compass (2022 – 2024)
  • South Asia Editor, History Compass (2019-2021)
  • Contributing Editor, Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (2020-2025)
  • Editorial Board Member, Environment and History (2020-2024)
  • Board Member, Global Urban History Project (2020-2024)
  • Advisory Board Member, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies (2021-)



  • Evaluation Panel, DFG Excellence Cluster, 2024
  • SNF Evaluation Panel (Ambizione), 2024-
  • Reviewer, ERC Advanced Grant, 2023
  • Advisory Board, Centre for Transcultural Asian Studies (CETRAS), University of Freiburg (Germany), 2022-
  • Inernational Advisory Council, Linda Hall Library (USA), 2022-
  • Programme Committee (2023), American Historical Association
  • Reviewer SNF Ambizione Fellowship, 2022-2023
  • St. Andrews Prize Committee (Chair), European Society for Environmental History (ESEH), 2021-23.
  • Review Committee for Canada Research Chair, 2021.
  • Review Committee for A. H. Heineken Prize for History 2022, Netherlands.
  • Review Committee for Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), (2021-)
  • Review Committee for Fulbright-Nehru Teaching Fellowship 2021.
  • Review Committee for Sanders Professorship, Department of History, DePaul University, 2020.
  • Prize Committee Member, Hal Rothman Dissertation Prize, American Society for Environmental History (ASEH), 2019-2022.
  • Selection Committee “Early Career Fellowship for STEM in South Asia,” University of Pennsylvania. 2016.