Debjani Ganguly

Professor; Director, Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures (IHGC)

122 Wilson Hall

Office Hours: Tue 2.00-3.00pm or by appointment
Class Schedule: Tu 3:30pm - 6:00pm


World Literature, Global Anglophone Literatures, Postcolonial Studies, Caste and Dalit Studies, Oceanic Literary Worlds, Literature and Human Rights, Technologies of War and Violence, Planetary Humanities


I work on postcolonial, global, and world literatures. My last monograph, This Thing Called the World: The Contemporary Novel as Global Form (2016) tracks the interlaced histories of globalism, information technology, ethnic violence and humanitarian connectivity through the genre of the novel. It reprises the novel’s historical links to distant suffering and technologies of mediation - the staple of debates on the sentimental novel and the rise of Abolitionism in the late 18th century - in the context of the emergence of novels written against the backdrop of global wars and ethnic conflict in the contemporary era. New media technologies and multiple visual regimes have been critical in mediating these sites of violence for diverse publics around the world. My book addresses the ways in which contemporary global novels capture the impact of this hypermediated violence in their points of view, their space-time configurations, their modes of addressing the reader and their moral imagination. Works on the Palestinian crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Kashmir conflict, post-9/11 America, and the Rwanda genocide, feature as case studies. 
I am currently at work on a new book project, Catastrophic Modes and Planetary Realism. This work explores the constellation of posthuman life forms in contemporary novels in our era of technogenic and biogenetic capitalism, and anthropogenic climate change. Four iconic contemporary scenarios of catastrophe feature in this study: drone warfare, viral pandemics, nuclear accidents, and climate change. Catastrophe is conceived in the language of existential risk rather than as an apocalyptic, end-of-the-world occurrence. The larger horizon of this research lies in the emergence of a vibrant interdisciplinary discourse that tracks the ways in which biological, technogenic and geological understandings of human beings relate to notions of political belonging, social justice, and human flourishing.
My first monograph, Caste, Colonialism, and Counter-Modernity (2005), is both an intellectual history and a revisionist ethnography of caste and untouchability in India from the point of view of theoretical developments in the field of postcolonial studies. Spanning a period from the eighteenth century to the present, the book traces the discursive horizons of 'caste' from early colonial histories and anthropological tracts to contemporary dalit literature and postcolonial historiographical projects such as Subaltern Studies. It argues that caste is not so much an essence responsible for India's ‘backwardness’ as a constellation of variegated social practices that are in a constant state of flux and that cannot be completely contained in a narrative of nation-building, modernization and development. What is offered in this analysis is not an endorsement of either the caste-system or casteism, but a resistance to the reified ways in which caste continues to figure in social scientific and nation-building discourses.
My latest publication is a two-volume The Cambridge History of World Literature (2021). I am series editor (with Francesca Orsini) of the Cambridge book series Cambridge Studies in World Literature and Culture. I have held visiting fellowships at the University of Chicago, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am a Fellow and Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge, Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and advisory board member of the Harvard Institute for World Literature, the Academy of Global Humanities and Critical Theory (Bologna), and the Interdisciplinary Center for Global South Studies (Tübingen).


The Cambridge History of World Literature, 2 volumes, Editor, Cambridge University Press, 2021
This Thing Called the World: The Contemporary Novel as Global Form, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016
Edward Said: The Legacy of a Public Intellectual, ed. Melbourne University Press, 2007

Articles and Book Chapters (select)

‘Catastrophic Form and Planetary Realism,’ New Literary History, Vol.51, No.2, 2020
‘The Global Novel: Comparative Perspectives,’ New Literary History, Vol.51, No.2, 2020
‘Salman Rushdie and the World Picture of Islam,’ The Wiley-Blackwell Companion World Literature, Volume 5, ed. B. Venkat Mani and Ken Seigneurie, 2020
‘The Scale of the Historical Novel in Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy’, MLA Volume on Amitav Ghosh, editors, Gaurav Desai and John Stratton, 2019
‘Humanitarian Scripts in the World Novel’ in Worldmaking: Literature, Language, Culture, ed. Tom Clark, Emily Finlay, Phillipa Kelly, London: John Benjamins, 2017
‘The Value of Worldmaking in Global Literary Studies’ The Values of Literary Studies, ed. Ronan McDonald, Cambridge University Press, 2015.
‘Polysystems Redux: The Unfinished Business of World Literature,’ Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, Vol.2, No.2, 2015
‘Postcolonialism’s Afterlife: The Novel after 1989’, The Cambridge Companion to the Postcolonial Novel, ed. Ato Quayson, Cambridge University Press, 2015.
‘The Subaltern After Subaltern Studies: Genealogies and Transformations’ South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2015
‘The World Novel, Mediated Wars and Exorbitant Witnessing,’ Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 1:1, 2014.
‘Dalit Life-Stories’, The Cambridge Companion to Modern Indian Culture, ed. Vasudha Dalmia, Cambridge University Press, 2012
‘Frontiers of Life and Death: The Human, New Wars and World Literary Sensibilities’, What was the Human? Ed. Liam Semler, Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing.
‘Deathworlds, The World Novel and the Human’, Angelaki, Vol. 16, No. 4, 2011
‘The Language Question in India’, The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature, ed. Ato Quayson, Cambridge University Press, 2011
‘Orbits of Desire: Bollywood as Creative Industry’, Bollywood in Australia ed. Andrew Hassam, Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 2010
‘Pain, Personhood and the Collective: Dalit Lifestories’, Asian Studies Review, Vol. 43, No. 4, 2009 
‘Literary Globalism in the New Millennium’, Postcolonial Studies, Vol. 11, No. 1, March 2008
‘Global Literary Refractions: Reading Pascale Casanova’s The World Republic of Letters’, English Academy Review, Vol. 25, No. 1 June 2008.
‘From Empire to Empire: Writing the Transnational Anglo-Indian Self in Australia’, Journal of Intercultural Studies, Vol. 28, No 1, 2007
‘Edward Said, World Literature and Global Comparatism’, in Edward Said: The Legacy of a Public Intellectual, eds. Ned Curthoys and Debjani Ganguly, Melbourne University Press, 2007.
‘Buddha, Bhakti and Superstition: A Post-Secular Reading of Dalit Conversion,’ Postcolonial Studies, April 2004, Vol. 7, No.1, 2004