Monday, June 18, 2018

Bhattacharyya on empire, ecology, and law in the Bengal Delta

Debjani Bhattacharyya, Drexel University, has published Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta: The Making of Calcutta with Cambridge University Press. From the publisher:
Empire and Ecology in the Bengal DeltaWhat 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.
Praise for the book:

"Debjani Bhattacharyya resurrects Calcutta's forgotten watery origins to recuperate an entirely riveting account of the city and its real estate market. The book shows how the fictitious capital of property value relies on an enduring amnesia about the intractable and transient texture of ecological landscapes. Deeply researched and brilliantly conceived, it offers a path-breaking account of the urban ecological crisis and its uncertain future." -Bhavani Raman

"In this fascinating study of the emergence of the metropolis of Calcutta out of the swampy landscape of the Bengal delta, Bhattacharyya shows how the production of a modern urban property regime entailed a forgotten transformation of the very earth upon which it was constructed." -Andrew Sartori

Further information is available here.

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