Barnita Bagchi is a faculty member in Comparative Literature at the Department of Languages, Literature, and Communication at Utrecht University. Educated at Jadavpur, Oxford, and Cambridge universities, she was previously on the faculty at the Institute of Development Studies Kolkata in India (where she is an Honorary Visiting Fellow). She has been a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge (spring 2013), and is now a Life Member of Clare Hall.
Her areas of research and publication include eighteenth-century and Romantic-era British fiction (with a particular interest in female-centred and female-authored fiction), South Asian (especially Bengali) narrative writing, utopian writing, and South Asian and transnational history of culture and education.
Her academic work on the South Asian Bengali Muslim writer Rokeya S. Hossain's female and feminist utopias (articles, book chapters, and a Penguin Classics critical edition and part-translation of two of Hossain's narratives) is widely used in academic courses globally, for example in a course at York University, Toronto, Canada, on 'South Asian Literary Activism: Women Writers and Filmmakers in South Asia and the Diaspora.' http://www.yorku.ca/shobna/courses/SouthAsianLiteraryActivism.htm
She straddles the humanities and the social sciences, and is currently editing and authoring books on non-Eurocentric utopian studies and connected histories of global education. A volume edited by her, The Politics of the (Im)possible: Utopia and Dystopia Reconsidered (SAGE Publications) has been published in 2012.
In March 2014 appeared Connecting Histories of Education: Transnational Exchanges and Cross-Cultural Trasfers in (Post)-Colonial Education , co-edited with Eckhardt Fuchs and Kate Rousmaniere (Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books).
' This “…makes a major contribution to the fields of educational, colonial and transnational histories… The introductory and concluding essays draw the book together well. This collection greatly extends our knowledge and approaches and provides a platform for further work. As such it fills a significant gap in a number of fields.” · Joyce Goodman, University of Winchester
The history of education in the modern world is a history of transnational and cross-cultural influence. This collection explores those influences in (post) colonial and indigenous education across different geographical contexts. The authors emphasize how local actors constructed their own adaptation of colonialism, identity, and autonomy, creating a multi-centric and entangled history of modern education. In both formal as well as informal aspects, they demonstrate that transnational and cross-cultural exchanges in education have been characterized by appropriation, re-contextualization, and hybridization, thereby rejecting traditional notions of colonial education as an export of pre-existing metropolitan educational systems.'
Read excerpts from the Introduction by Barnita Bagchi, Eckhardt Fuchs, and Kate Rousmaniere at the Berghahn Books blog:
Read excerpts from Mary Hilton’s chapter “A Transcultural Transaction: William Carey’s Baptist Mission, the Monitorial Method and the Bengali Renaissance,” which gives readers insight into the education system shared between Britain and Bengal in the early 19th century:
Read the Introduction to Tabish Khair: Critical Perspectives (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), ed. Dwivedi and Gamez-Fernandez, in which Bagchi has an essay.
Forthcoming articles include:
"Rabindranath Tagore, Cosmopolitanism, and Utopia: Some Considerations," in Rabindranath Tagore in the World, ed. Subhoranjan Dasgupta and Sangeeta Datta
‘ "Because Novels Are True, and Histories Are False": Indian Women Writing Fiction in English, 1860-1918', invited chapter, submitted, peer-reviewed, accepted, and forthcoming in The Cambridge History of the Indian Novel in English, ed. Ulka Anjaria (Cambridge University Press, 2015).
She brings to her scholarship knowledge of Bengali, English, Dutch, French, and Hindi.
At Utrecht University, she supervises BA, taught MA, and Research MA theses on a variety of topics; these include the Bildungsroman, European fiction of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Jane Austen, British women writers, utopian and dystopian narratives, children's literature, fantasy literature, contemporary postcolonial fiction, South Asian writing from the colonial period, and Rabindranath Tagore. Some of these theses can be found through:http://studenttheses.library.uu.nl/search.php?m=simple&p=1&p=1&qry=bagchi&language=nlShe co-supervises Ph.D. research (by D. Geraghty) on non-fictional travel writing on India, for Monash University in Australia.
She also co-supervises doctoral research at UU, on the Anglophone Kashmiri Bildungsroman (R. Rizwan).
She welcomes enquiries from students wishing to work with her at any of these levels.
Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, vol. 7 no. 2, December 2013, ed. M. Quayum (Flinders University/ IIUM Malaysia) devotes half an issue to the oeuvre of Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain.
Articles, among others, by Sarmistha Dutta Gupta, Fayeza Hasanat, Mahua Sarkar, Srimati Mukherjee, Bharati Ray, and Barnita Bagchi.
SOME REVIEWS AND CITATIONS OF PUBLICATIONS
1. From a review by D.S. Cheema, 'Capturing the Spirit of Utopia', in The Sunday Tribune, 26 May 2013:
"A conference held in Paris, in 2008, under the auspices of the Indo-French Cultural Exchange Programme forms the basis of the present volume, edited by Barnita Bagchi, a faculty in Literary Studies at Utrecht University; the Netherlands. The book has been very carefully divided in three parts, part I debates the basic concept of utopia and dystopia and has chapters on the history, political theory, and cultural politics of utopia-dystopia, Part II contains gender politics of utopia/dystopia and Part III, a finale to the volume, deals with resistance to utopian dreams in a globalised world.
The word Utopia was first coined by Sir Thomas More in 1516 in his book in Latin, Utopia. It is a work of imaginative fiction with central theme as "the good society" and equality is its central value. It is "the paradise that exists elsewhere". Utopia is a place of dreams, a place of the good, and a place which is nowhere to be found . . . Krishan Kumar's Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times is an emerging rigorous analysis of these concepts.
In The Spirit of Utopia and The Principle of Hope, Ernst Bloch sees "Being" simultaneously as a process, unfinishedness and tension towards the perfection and argues for a view of utopia as radical alterity . . . Echo of an Impossible Return analyses the political unconscious, the seeds of time and archaeologies of future, the works of Marxist literary critic Fredric Jameson. In Dystopia, Utopia, and Akhtruzzaman Elias's Khowabnama, the focus of the author, Dasgupta, is how dystopia can come dangerously close to utopia, yet in practice they are poles apart.
It was William Thompson who set the ball of women rights rolling in 1825, when he wrote his Introductory Letter to Mrs. Wheeler at the start of Appeal of One Half of the Human Race, Women Against the Pretensions of the Other Half, Men, To Retain them in Political, and Thence in Civil and Domestic Slavery. Here Thompson acknowledges his 'debt of justice' in framing the Appeal, which looks at the relation of power between men and women and arguing for women's equal political and legal rights. The author of Meye Parliament or A Parliament of Women, written in 1880, in Bengali, creates a full-fledged vision of a dystopia of a land ruled by the New Women. In Empire Builder, the author analyses the periodical The Imperial Colonist, a women's review— written by women for women, which first appeared on January 1, 1901 with the main objective of encouraging the emigration of British women "of the right sort", to the colonies. At the end of the book, the arguments extend to concepts such as "man has as much craving for utopia as for bread." The author also infers that modernism and development have blurred the line between war and revolution and has suggested a new concept of topos, between utopia and dystopia.
The book presents an in-depth philosophical account of why 'utopia has been the mother of exact sciences.' Writings of different thinkers on utopia and dystopia display a rather complex interplay between the actual and the possible, dream and reality and ideal or the monstrous communities. A must read."
2. "Barnita Bagchi shows how Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck negotiated the bizarre cruelties of her upbringing by her parents, Samuel and Lucy Galton, Quakers and members of the Lunar Society, a couple that make the obvious joke about a group that called themselves Lunatics less than funny. Mary Anne, herself understandably short of a sense of humour, nevertheless went on to become an ‘aesthetic theorist, theologian, and abolitionist’ and a significant bridge between Romantic and Victorian cultures.' "
3. Barnita Bagchi has argued that “the transnational character of the British Empire facilitated the emergence of a strong women’s movement (which paradoxically took an anti-imperial slant) campaigning for women’s education in early twentieth-century India” (754).
---Emily J.A. Monteiro, Communal Formations: Development of Gendered Identities
in Early Twentieth-Century Women’s Periodicals. Ph.D. Dissertation, Texas A&M University, 2013. Online at http://repository.tamu.edu/bitstream/handle/1969.1/149616/MONTEIRO-DISSERTATION-2013.pdf?sequence=1
4. "Barnita Bagchi’s “Ramabai and Rokeya: The History of Gendered Social Capital in India” compares how women writers and activists Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922) and Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880-1932) promoted women’s education. Bagchi argues that these women attacked patriarchal norms through their educational and welfarist associations. Of particular note in this chapter is the idea of gendered social capital, which refers to “how certain kinds of social capital can be analytically viewed as constitutively gendered” (p. 69). This would include caregiving institutions, elementary school teaching, voluntary welfarist associations, and the like. These essays demonstrate that, through the aid of organizations, women could promote educational opportunities for others.
The contributions to Women, Education, and Agency demonstrate that women have found methods of gaining access to formal education; utilized a variety of informal educational tools; and sought to use their learning to influence other women, society, and culture. Women have been active players in educational history and only forgotten because their means of learning have most often been nontraditional. This book, however, asks readers to also consider the relevance today in reflecting on the long history of women attempting to fulfill their potential as human beings and the importance of accessing education in that struggle. It is a book that begins historical inquiry, urging readers to consider problems that persist and looking for methods to remedy these problems."
--- Liberty Sproat. Review of Spence, Jean; Aiston, Sarah Jane; Meikle, Maureen M., eds., Women, Education, and Agency, 1600-2000. H-Education, H-Net Reviews. January, 2012.URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=34441
5. "Sultana's Dream and Padmarag: two feminist utopias (Penguin India, £7.99) brings together two fictional works by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880-1932); the first a much-anthologised futuristic fantasy written in English in 1905, the second a 1924 novel which subversively interweaves elements of traditional romance - missing heroine, melancholy hero, purloined letters - with the first-person accounts of several inhabitants (Hindu, Muslim and Christian) of a women's refuge. Translator Barnita Bagchi's comprehensive introduction charts the legendary Bengali Muslim writer-reformer Begum Rokeya's life and times."
6. Bagchi's edition with critical introduction and part-translation of Rokeya Hossain's 'Sultana's Dream amd Padmarag: Two Feminist Utopias' has been cited in numerous important publications on postcolonial literature and history since 2009: these include Priyamvada Gopal, The Indian English Novel: Nation, History and Narration (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 195; Gender and Change: Agency, Chronology, and Periodisation, ed. Alexandra Shepard and Garthine Walker (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2009), p. 218; The Postnational Fantasy: Essays on Postcolonialism, Cosmopolitics and Science Fiction, ed. Masood Ashraf Raja, Jason W. Ellis, and Swaralipi Nandi (Jefferson: Macfarland and Co., 2011), p. 14; Feminist Writings from Ancient Times to the Modern World: A Global Sourcebook and History, by Tiffany K. Wayne (Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 2011), p. 377; Suneetha Rani, "Women's Worlds in the Novels of Kandukuri and Gilman," CLCWeb 14: 2 (2012), p. 8, <http://dx.doi.org/10.7771/1481-4374.1963> ; Prasita Mukherjee, "Revolutionizing Agency: Sameness and Difference in the Representation of Women by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain and Mahasweta Devi," Argument 2:1 (June 2012), p. 122 and passim, http://www.argument-journal.eu/back-issues/vol-2-no-1?lang=en ; The Bangladesh Reader, ed. Meghna Guhathakurta and Willem van Schendel (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013), p. 522; Ruby Lal, Coming of Age in Nineteenth-Century India: The Girl-Child and the Art of Playfulness (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 172.
7. "Taking a broader perspective, Bagchi, Sinha, and Bagchi (2005) destabilise the stereotype of information, communication and technology as hallmarks of India’s modernity, seeing such developments as having strong roots in history that date from pre-modern times: encompassing continuities and ruptures across the vast and localised canvas of India."
8. "Moreover, new technologies and media are not valueneutral (see, for example, Munshi et al., 2007) and can potentially lead to what Bagchi et al. call a ‘cognitive imperialism’ if users other than from the western world remain a ‘passive observer and recipient.’ (Bagchi et al., 2005: 10)."
---Kirsten Broadfoot, Debashish Munshi, and Natalie Nelson-marsh. "COMMUNEcation: a rhizomatic tale of participatory technology, postcoloniality and professional community," New Media & Society 12:5 (2010): 797–812: p. 802.
9. "In the concluding chapters of this book, there are expressions of hope that information technology has been an effective tool for spreading awareness of miscarriages of justice, such as the slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat, the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib, and Ariel Sharon’s bulldozer destruction of Palestinian neighborhoods. But the book seeks to give perspective on how the vast majority of Indians still lack meaningful access to ICT. With over 100 million boys and girls not in school, the overall literacy rate stands at 65 percent for males and 54 percent for females. Literacy is ‘defined as the bare ability to sign one’s name’, observes Barnita Bagchi. ‘The majority of those who do go to school do not complete even five years of schooling.’...Webs of History sees the democratic potential in ICT, though the editors harbor disappointment in elites who deep down appear committed to these technologies as a means of fortifying entrenched privilege. When looking at a range of interviews of academics in development studies, education, IT, and management conducted by an LSE student, Bagchi reports that overwhelmingly they believed that ‘the first role of ICT was to further the careers and upward mobility of the middle and upper class Indians who can afford higher IT education, while second in importance came the value attached to ICT as a tool of strengthening the geo-political and economic interests of India. Much lower down came the role of ICT education as an agent of poverty alleviation or other welfarist development’ (pp. 269–70)."
---John Trumpbour, Alex Bryson, Rafael Gomez, Paul Willman, Kim Scipes, Greg Gigg, Janet Wasko, Rose Tang & Tom Mertes, "Labor in the Information Age," Labor
History, 51:1 (2010): 145-166: p. 149.
10. Other citations of Webs of History: Information, Communication and Technology from Early to Post-Colonial India have appeared in, for example, James W. Cortada. "How New Technologies Spread: Lessons from Computing Technologies." Technology and Culture 54.2 (2013): 229-261. Project MUSE. Web. 24 May. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>; James Cortada, The Digital Flood: The Diffusion of Information Technology Across the U.S., Europe, and Asia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012); Roland Wenzlhuemer, Connecting the Nineteenth-Century World: The Telegraph and Globalization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); and in Nitin Sinha, Communication and Colonialism in Eastern India: Bihar, 1760s-1880s (London: Anthem Press, 2012).
11. "As 400 years is rather a long time over which to pursue agency, the structural aspects could have been the focus of the book, for example, how modernisation processes created an aura of change – a lot of it through education – but how the precariousness of women in academe remained persistent. Muravyeva’s essay, forinstance, on Russian women in European universities in the latter half of the nineteenth century is an excellent example of structural change. Other essays, such as Bagchi’s on the internationalist and organisationalist approaches of Ramabai and Rokeya, Erdemir’s on Sukufe Nihal, and Pedersen’s on Wollstonecraft, also give a
sense of how women’s agency is placed within larger contexts of social and economic transformation...Barnita Bagchi also emphasises the role of religion in India and the importance of inter-religious women’s networks in the all-women stories of Pandita Ramabai (1858–1922) and Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880–1932). The contribution of the Indian case to the book is important as transnational connections are most evident in this essay."
---Elif Ekin Aksit, Ankara University. Review of Women, Education, and Agency, 1600–2000, in the journal History of Education 42:2 (2013), pp. 287-289: p. 287. DOI:10.1080/0046760X.2012.754504
12. Women, Education, and Agency, 1600-2000 was also reviewed, with detailed discussion of my article, by Shruti Vip in History and Sociology of South Asia, ISSN 2230-8075, 6:2 (July 2012), pp. 149 - 152. SAGE Journals Online.
13. "Barnita Bagchi has also shown how Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain and other Indian women reformers, such as Pandita Ramabai, paradoxically used the transnational character of the British empire to facilitate an anti-imperialist women’s movement for women’s education in early twentieth-century India . Hossain’s imagined multifaith, multi-racial, cooperative, caring, economically stable female community – Padmarag or The Ruby – with education at its centre was far from reality, however, as imperial states used gender stereotyping both to exalt the colonising nation and to demean the colonised. This was exemplified by the British in nineteenth- century India."
---Ruth Watts, "Society, education and the state: Gender perspectives on an old debate," Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education 49:1 (2013), pp. 17-33: p. 31; DOI:10.1080/00309230.2012.745886
14. "Barnita Bagchi's paper is a lively and affectionate tribute to the Bengali writer Leela Majumder, who to all appearances was a staid school teacher at Shantiniketan.But she was also a prolific writer who with her restless travels, and varied career wrote an energetic series of stories for children. Although these may be read with a feminist slant, Bagchi is quick to state that Majumder cannot be fitted into a neat category such as feminist literature....These, and many more articles in the book have been motivated by a genuine concern to understand children's literature in a context that is wider than that within which the writer is situated. The number of perspectives included make it a valuable resource for teachers, scholars, parents, and anyone interested in children."
---Deepa Onkar. "A Varied Tapestry," review of Reading Children: Essays on Children’s Literature, Ed. RImi B.Chatterjee and Nilanjana Gupta, Orient Blackswan. The Hindu, 3 July 2010. The Hindu is one of India's leading newspapers. http://www.thehindu.com/books/a-varied-tapestry/article498578.ece
15. "Barnita Bagchi’s critical exploration of the interface between female education and the fictional form in Britain (1778-1814) easily commends itself as a trendsetter for several reasons. Written with feeling, fervour and objectivity, the volume breaks through severalpolitically correct barriers – literary, pedagogic, canonical and cultural – and comes out as a pioneering work in its category.
The best part of Bagchi’s approach is to break out of artificially constructed binaries. Thus, while proponents of the literary canon in the western academia keep fighting a rear guard battle and appear defensive about the White Anglo-Saxon and Protestant (WASP) tradition,
Bagchi has no such anxiety. Similarly, she shows that the social and political conservatism of writers, including women authors, need not necessarily be a drawback when judging the merit of their literary-cultural contributions. The five women writers that she takes up for
close study did not evince a pronounced affinity towards radical or revolutionary causes such as the French Revolution or the American War of Independence. Nevertheless, argues Bagchi, their fiction showed a deep engagement with the woman question and punctured male pretensions regarding what constitutes ‘correct’ female behaviour. Thirdly, while most educationists and littérateurs continue to operate, despite the call for interdisciplinary research, in separate spheres, Bagchi brilliantly brings them together so that both benefit in a manner that goes beyond superficial eclecticism."
---Sachidananda Mohanty, University of Hyderabad. Review of Pliable Pupils and Sufficient Self-Directors: Narratives of Female Education by Five British Women Writers 1778-1814. Economic and Political Weekly 40:6 (23 February 2005): 532-533: 533. http://www.epw.in/system/files/pdf/2005_40/06/Education_and_Female_Identity.pdf