Zur Person

Varsha Patel is research assistant and PhD student under the Chair for the History of Human Animal Relations at the University of Kassel since 1.10.2017. Her previous field and archival research, supported by the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale chronicles the decline of maritime trade along the coast of the former princely state of Bhāvnagar (1723‒1948) in Gujarāt, Western India between 1900 and 2015. In doing so, it reflects the complex social, political and technological infrastructure that organized the flows of commerce between British India and the often clandestinely porous borders of princely states which occupied 1/3 of the territory of India in 1947, fringing the British Empire. Chronicling the ruination of a once thriving port that becomes a site of memory and a tourist attraction, her research shows how a land based society expands as maritime connections decline. Affective memories of different occupational groups of people and littoral settlements demonstrate that developments in transport infrastructure—railways and ports, that link the region with the wider worlds of the Indian Ocean, were and remain expressions of modernity for this coast.

Varsha studied at the University of Delhi and at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai before completing her M. Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her two dissertations examine people’s perceptions of development in Leh, Ladakh post 1970 and transformations in configurations of gender, material culture, labour, technology and the environment in traditional laundries in New Delhi.