Professor of Anthropology

Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies

Member, Committee on Global Thought

Partha Chatterjee is a Professor of Anthropology and of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University and a Professor of Political Science at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences in Calcutta, India. Partha Chatterjee is a political theorist and historian. He studied at Presidency College in Calcutta, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester. He divides his time between Columbia University and the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, where he was the Director from 1997 to 2007.

A major focus of Partha Chatterjee’s work is nationalism, but in order to follow his thoughts on this topic, one must simultaneously think also of colonialism, post-colonialism, modernity, and the idea of the nation-state, and also summon up, simultaneously with that cluster of concepts, a not-nationalist and counter-colonial viewpoint about what these terms actually represent (or could actually represent), with special reference to India. One of Chatterjee’s basic arguments is that the concept of nation-state is one formed in Western social scientific thought, and thus it may not even work for all states as the given it is often taken to be. The practical problem (according to Chatterjee) is that post-colonial administrators adopted the paradigm of nation-state and thus blinded themselves to new possibilities of thinking outside Western categories. These new possibilities are what Chatterjee is striving for. Chatterjee also studies issues of national borders, sovereignty, citizenship, welfare and democracy. Chatterjee was a founding member of the subaltern studies group of historians.

He is the author of more than twenty books, monographs and edited volumes. His books include: The Politics of the Governed: Considerations on Political Society in Most of the World (2004); A Princely Impostor? The Strange and Universal History of the Kumar of Bhawal (2002); A Possible India: Essays in Political Criticism (1997); The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (1993), and Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse? (1993). He is also a poet, playwright, and actor. In the Mira Nair film The Namesake (2007), he played the role of “A Reformed Hindoo.”


Select Publications

Select Honors and Awards

  • Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of Asian studies, 2009


  • Ph.D., Political Science, University of Rochester