State Narratives of Mortuary Work in Colonial India


State Narratives of Mortuary Work in Colonial India



Sohini Chattopadhyay

(Research Scholar, Department of History, Columbia University)


Date & Time : 06 th July, 2021 Tuesday at 3.00 PM (IST)  


Recorded Video



This presentation outlines a brief history of mortuary work in colonial India from case studies in colonial Bombay and Bengal Presidencies perusing official documents such as hospital, police, and municipal reports. It suggests how caste-based work became central to modernizing projects of death management such as the creation of public burial grounds, implementation of incinerators, and the use of dissection. Simultaneously, these documents also demonstrate how elite public health experts and medical professionals displayed discomfort in acknowledging that caste-based work was foundational to practices they considered ‘modern’ and ‘scientific’. This presentation is an invitation to think about how official bureaucratic transactions managed the relationship between science and social difference in colonial India. It is also an invitation to discuss the legacies of the past in our present.


About the speaker:

Sohini Chattopadhyayis a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department, Columbia University with a focus on the History of Science and Technology. Her doctoral dissertation looks at science and technological uses and innovations in moments of mass deaths such as famines, epidemics, and riots; and how these reorganized social relations in colonial South Asia. She has previously studied at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her dissertation research is funded by the Social Science Research Council, The American Institute for Indian Studies, and Columbia University Hofstadter Fellowship. Some of her public writings are available, The Telegraph, The Print,and Quartz. She edits a web journal called Borderlines.