Bodhisattva Kar is an Associate Professor in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town. He received his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. Kar has taught and held research fellowships in several premier institutions at Amsterdam, Berlin, Calcutta, Chicago, Delhi, Hamburg, Mexico City, Oxford and Paris. He serves on the editorial boards of different international journals and academic series.

Kar’s research interests include histories of disciplines and the social; joint-stock capitalism; primitivism; nineteenth- and twentieth-century history of South and Southeast Asia; modern African intellectual history; connected and comparative histories of frontiers. His work tries to shuttle across economic and cultural histories, cultivate the anti-identitarian potential of the discipline, and develop an egalitarian ethic of engaging the non-historical without giving up on the delights of the archive.

Kar chaired the Department of Historical Studies from 2017 to 2022, conceptualized and directed the History Access programme (2018-22), and currently officiates as the Deputy Dean for Research and Internationalisation of the Faculty of Humanities (2024-26). In 2020, he received the Distinguished Teacher Award, “the highest accolade awarded to teaching staff at all levels within the University of Cape Town.”

Areas of Supervision:

Kar provides supervision on varied and innovative topics in African, Asian and Global South histories. His advisees and mentees, a majority of whom have won distinction and prizes for their dissertations, work/-ed on themes as diverse as: history of circulation in the Cuvelai-Etosha Basin, history of public toilets in Cape Town, rainmaking in Zimbabwe, refigurations of Nongqawuse in southern African academic and literary discourses, vernacularization of the discipline of political economy in colonial Bengal, sonic history of Apartheid South Africa, history of video games, African investors in early joint-stock companies in South Africa, construction of bipolar disorder in psychiatric diagnostic literature, politics of stereotypes in the Nepalese school textbooks, history of rubbish in Cape Town, infrastructures of occupation in post-2003 Iraq, genealogies and afterlives of Marikana in South African popular politics, history of photography in Zambia, design history, race and philology in South Africa, comparative histories of labour songs, history of holidays and leaves in Bengal, languaging of memory in the wake of the Gukurahundi genocide, sensorial history of nineteenth-century Calcutta, the making of a national festival in Assam, franchise and citizenship in South Africa, the machinic in colonial South Asian cultures of subjectivity, contradictions of early twentieth-century organic urbanism, politics of waiting in contemporary Cape Town, Asian plantation histories, forging of identities in colonial Sylhet, jute mill workers in neoliberal Bengal, the politics of knowledge at the University of Witwatersrand in the twentieth century, and landscape histories of colonial northern Cape frontier. Kar is particularly interested in supervising thematically inventive and methodologically challenging projects.

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).

Articles and Book Chapters

  • ‘The Birth of the Ryot: Rethinking the Agrarian in British Assam’, in Neeladri Bhattacharya and Joy L. K. Pachuau (eds), Landscape, Culture, and Belonging: Writing the History of Northeast India (Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2019), pp. 38-65. ISBN 9781108481298.
  • ‘Nomadic Capital and Speculative Tribes: A Culture of Contracts in the Northeastern Frontier of British India’, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 53: 1 (2016), pp. 41-67. ISSN 00194646.
  • ‘Introduction – New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices’ (co-authored with Partha Chatterjee and Tapati Guha-Thakurta), in Partha Chatterjee, Tapati Guha-Thakurta and Bodhisattva Kar (eds.), New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 1-37. ISBN 9780198090373.
  • ‘Heads in the Naga Hills’, in Partha Chatterjee, Tapati Guha-Thakurta and Bodhisattva Kar (eds.), New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 335-370. ISBN 9780198090373.
  • ‘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. ISBN 9788192219578.
  • ‘Can the Postcolonial Begin?: Deprovincializing Assam’, in Saurabh Dube (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Modernity in South Asia: Modern Makeovers (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 43-58. ISBN 9780198074045.
  • ‘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. ISBN 9780198078975.
  • ‘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. ISSN 03769836.
  • ‘“Tongue Has No Bone”: Fixing the Assamese Language, c. 1800 – c. 1930’, Studies in History 24: 1 (2008), pp. 27-76. ISSN 02576430.
  • ‘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. ISBN 8178242257.
  • ‘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. ISBN 9781905422616.
  • ‘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, 2003.
  • ‘Imagining Post-Indian Histories’, Seminar 524, April 2003.

Public Interviews