Dr. Arunima Datta | Women's & Gender Studies

Dr. Arunima Datta

Assistant Professor, Department of History
WH 264

I am a historian of British Empire and Asian (South and Southeast Asian) history. In my research and teaching I am constantly exploring the everyday experiences of labor migrants, particularly women migrants, within the context of the British Empire. My themes of focus in my research are: labor, women's history, food and emotions.

My first book, Fleeting Agencies: A Social History of Indian Coolie Women in British Malaya, published by Cambridge University Press 2021 (which has won multiple awards: the NWSA Whaley Book Award; the WAWH Chaudhuri Prize; and the NACBS Stansky Award) disrupts the male-dominated narratives by focusing on gendered patterns of migration and showing how South Asian women labor migrants engaged with the process of migration, interacted with other migrants, with colonial laws and negotiated world wars. The book also introduces the concept of situational or fleeting agency, which contributes to further a nuanced understanding of agency in the lives of Indian coolie women. My second book, Waiting on Empire: A History of Indian Travelling Ayahs in Britain, published by Oxford University Press 2023 focuses on a largely forgotten group of South Asian travelling ayahs (servants and nannies), who travelled between India and Britain and often found themselves destitute in Britain as they struggled to find their way home to South Asia. While delving into the stories of individual ayahs the book also re-imagines the experience of waiting within the context of transnational migrations. I have also published several articles and chapters, concerning South and Southeast Asian histories, labor migration and women's histories.

I also serve as an Associate Editor for the journals Gender & History and Britain and the World, and as an Associate Review Editor for the American Historical Review.

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