Bodhisattva Kar is an Associate Professor in Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town. He received his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. Before joining the UCT in 2012, he has taught and held fellowships at Amsterdam, Berlin, Calcutta, Mexico City, Oxford, and Paris. His research interests include histories of development and disciplines; primitivism; nineteenth and early twentieth-century history of South and South East Asia; connected and comparative histories of frontiers; nationalist formations; and joint–stock companies. Bodhisattva’s work tries to bring together economic and cultural histories into conversation, explore the anti-identitarian potential of the discipline, and develop an ethic of approaching the non-historical without giving up on the delights of the archive.

Research Interests and Areas of Supervision:

  • Cultural and intellectual histories (particularly histories of body and senses, objects and materiality, practices and customs, sentiments and emotions, texts and concepts)
  • Transnational and comparative histories of colonialism

Select Publications:


  • Co-edited (with Partha Chatterjee and Tapati Guha-Thakurta), New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • What is in a Name?: Politics of Spatial Imagination in Colonial Assam (Guwahati: Centre for Northeast India, South and Southeast Asia Studies, Omeo Kumar Das Institute for Social Change and Development, 2004).

Journal Articles and Chapters in Books

  • “Heads in the Naga Hills”, in Partha Chatterjee, Tapati Guha-Thakurta and Bodhisattva Kar (eds.), New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • “Welsh’s Fallacy: Rereading the Eighteenth-Century Ahom Crisis”, in Subhas Ranjan Chakraborty (ed.), The Eighteenth Century in South Asia: New Terrains (Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 2012), pp. 129-167.
  • “Can the Postcolonial Begin?: Deprovincializing Assam”, in Saurabh Dube (ed.), Handbook of Modernity in South Asia: Modern Makeovers (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 43-58.
  • [Also translated into Spanish as ‘¿Puede Comenzar la Poscolonia?: La Desprovincialización de Assam’, in Saurabh Dube and Ishita Banerjee (eds), Otras Modernidades: Historias, Culturas, Identidades (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 2011), 69-90].
  • “Historia Elastica: A Note on the Rubber Hunt in the North-Eastern Frontier of British India”, Indian Historical Review, 36: 1 (2009), pp. 131-150.
  • “When Was the Postcolonial?: A History of Policing Impossible Lines”, in Sanjib Baruah (ed.) Beyond Counterinsurgency: Breaking the Impasse in Northeast India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 49-79.
  • “Incredible Stories in the Time of Credible Histories: Colonial Assam and Translations of Vernacular Geographies”, in Partha Chatterjee and Raziuddin Aquil (eds.), History in the Vernacular (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2008), pp. 288-321.
  • “The Assam Fever: Identities of a Disease and Diseases of an Identity”, in Debraj Bhattacharya (ed.), Of Matters Modern: The Experience of Modernity in Colonial and Post-colonial South Asia (Calcutta: Seagull, 2008), pp. 78-125.
  • “‘Tongue Has No Bone’: Fixing the Assamese Language, c. 1800 – c. 1930”, Studies in History 24: 1 (2008), pp. 27-76.
  • “The Tragedy of Suryya Bhuyan”, Biblio, 13: 5-6 (May-June 2008)
  • “Imagining Post-Indian Histories”, Seminar 524, April 2003 [Full access:]
  • “Energizing Tea, Enervating Opium: Culture of Commodities in Colonial Assam”, in Manas Ray (ed.), Space, Sexuality and Postcolonial Cultures (Calcutta: Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, ENRECA papers series, 2002).