326 Claudia Cohen Hall



Curriculum Vitæ


PhD, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London
MPhil, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
MA, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
BA, Presidency College, Calcutta

My training was firmly within the Subaltern Studies tradition and I continue to work within that tradition of scholarship. I am therefore interested in issues of marginality and marginalization both within and through science. People and knowledges who are disempowered are the main subject of my studies. My twin ambition is to write histories of science that are anti-colonial without being nationalist or identitarian. 

In my first monograph, Nationalizing the Body (London: 2009), I wrote about the South Asian doctors and medical subordinates who were employed in the lower echelons of the colonial medical establishment in British India. I highlighted their creativitiy, agency and politics in vernacularizing 'western' medicine so as to meet local realities. In my second monograph, Doctoring Traditions (Chicago: 2016), I explored how Ayurvedic medicine modernized under colonialism. While focusing on the agency and creativity of the Ayurvedic physicians of the colonial era, I also acknowledged their political exclusions as well as their intellectual engagement with "western" intellectual traditions. 

Currently, I am working on a history of human difference and race in 20th century South Asia. This touches on the histories of physical anthropology, evolutionary biology, human genetics and archeogenetics. My dual aim is to both recover the repressed stories of Indian pioneers of genetics as well as to uncover how the politics of race, indigeneity and biocolonialism play out in the South Asian context. 

The issues of identity and inheritance raised by the current project has also lured me into the parallel histories of forensics and parapsychology which, in various ways, provided orthogonal ways of thinking about these topics. These also resonate with an older and inchoate interest in science and enchantment.

Finally, I have an interest in the history of chemistry in 19th century Bengal. I am particularly interested in how modernized parachemical traditions such as rasayana and kimiya resonated with vernacularized forms of "modern chemistry". This history overlaps at multiple points with both my interest in medical history and the histories of bodily difference.

Research Interests

  • Race Science
  • Genetics
  • Disease Ecologies
  • Physical Anthropology
  • Science & the Supernatural
  • Forensic Science
  • Nineteenth-Century Chemistry
  • Colonial & Indigenous Medicines

Selected Work


Edited Books:

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Graduate Group Member:

  • Department of History
  • Department of Religious Studies
  • Department of South Asian Studies

Teaching Fields

  • Medical History
  • Race Science
  • History of Genetics
  • Postcolonial Science
  • Law & Medicine
  • Disease Ecologies

Courses Taught

  • Comparative Medicine
  • Law & Medicine
  • Biopiracy
  • Botanic Empire: Plants and Empire, c. 1750-1950
  • Other Reasons: Science & the Supernatural


Faculty Bookshelf