Theses Doctoral

Ocean Bombay: Space, Itinerancy and Community in an Imperial Port City, 1839-1937

Bhattacharyya, Tania

“Ocean Bombay” is a social history of a colonial city of itinerants. Between 1839 and 1937 the actions of the British Indian colonial state and itinerancy upon one another shaped both the borders of the newly independent nations in 1947 and the changing notions of community and human relationship with space in the South Asian subcontinent. This dissertation charts the story of that development by studying itinerant groups staking their belonging to communities and space in colonial, port Bombay: Sidi shipworkers, Bombay-Aden merchants, Irani cafe owners, nomadic groups, publishers, filmmakers, and actresses. In doing so I intervene in the urban historiography of the city by writing about Bombay’s forgotten transoceanic past as a port city straddling the transformation of the subcontinent from colonial state to nation-state. Further, I rethink the concepts of “community” and border-making as used in South Asian historical and theoretical thinking by examining them through the lens of itinerancy and gender. “Ocean Bombay” thus locates Bombay society at the intersection of several oceanic geographies, through the study of an archive built from fragments and interviews collected across India, the United Kingdom, and Iran.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Ahmed Asif, Manan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 31, 2019