Land, Water, and Humans in the Bengal Delta
A Public Seminar Book Talk | Debjani Bhattacharyya, Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta: The Making of Calcutta
This live webinar is on Thursday, June 18, 2020, from 12:00-1:00 PM EST.
What happens when a distant colonial power tries to tame an unfamiliar terrain in the world’s largest tidal delta? This history of dramatic ecological changes in the Bengal Delta from 1760 to 1920 involves land, water, and humans, tracing the stories and struggles that link them together. Pushing beyond narratives of environmental decline, Bhattacharyya argues that ‘property-thinking’, a governing tool critical in making land and water discrete categories of bureaucratic and legal management, was at the heart of colonial urbanization and the technologies behind the draining of Calcutta. The story of ecological change is narrated alongside emergent practices of land speculation and transformation in colonial law. Bhattacharyya demonstrates how this history continues to shape our built environments with devastating consequences, as shown in the Bay of Bengal’s receding coastline.
Join Public Seminar’s co-executive editor Claire Potter and her guests, Kasia Paprocki, of the London School of Economics, and author Debjani Bhattacharyya, of Drexel University, as they explore the environmental history of Calcutta.
Register for this event here: You will receive a link to the webinar the morning of the event.
Purchase Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta: The Making of Calcutta (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018) here.
What we are reading:
Senior managing editor Helaine Olen confirms it: Donald Trump has finally jumped the shark and the show is due to be canceled. (“Trump has finally lost control of his narrative,” Washington Post, June 15, 2020)
Art historian Erin L. Thompson discusses the practice of removing racist monuments with Jonah Bromwich of the New York Times: contrary to popular wisdom, destruction—not preservation—is the norm. (June 11, 2020)
The revolt against Harry Potter J.K. Rowling for promoting transphobia explained. (Julia Jacobs, “Harry Potter Fans Reimagine Their World Without Its Creator,” New York Times, June 12, 2020