Studies in Economic History : Iman Mitra | Department of History

Studies in Economic History : Iman Mitra

Studies in economic history of South Asia seldom engage with the histories of the economic discipline; and when they do, they mainly focus on the development of the discipline in the west. In my doctoral research, I have tried to problematise these uncomplicated accounts of naïve reception with more complex (and often contradictory) histories of popularisation of the discipline in colonial South Asia through school textbooks, vernacular journals, knowledge societies and other avenues of critical scholastic engagements. Right now, I am doing research on the historical connections between economics and anthropology as fields of specialised knowledge in postcolonial India.

My areas of interest include economic histories and histories of the economic discipline. While the former studies past activities and institutions which are usually described as ‘economic’ and ‘commercial’, the latter explores how certain ways of thinking – concepts, categories and rationalities – have been identified as part of a discipline called political economy (later economics) in the last three centuries. When we open a dialogue between these two histories, we get the opportunity to discover the logic of describing certain activities as economic and the rest as non-economic and recognize how that distinction itself can become a topic of historical inquiries. This distinction is fundamental to the formation of the economic discourse with different specialisations that evince a common agenda of production and application of a specific knowledge.My research centres around these dialogic narratives of specialisation of knowledge in the historical context of colonial and postcolonial South Asia.