Shinjini Das

Shinjini Das


  • 3.41 Arts

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Personal profile


I am a historian of British Imperialism and Modern South Asia, with wide-ranging research and teaching interests in histories of South Asia, colonial science and medicine, and (more recently) colonial Christianity. I am the author of Vernacular Medicine in Colonial India: Family, Market and Homoeopathy (Cambridge University Press, 2019); co-editor of Chosen Peoples: Bible, Race and Empire in the Nineteenth Century (Manchester University Press, 2020) and the Book Reviews Editor (South Asia) for the journal Asian Medicine (Brill). For Vernacular Medicine in Colonial India I recieved the 2020 John Pickstone Prize, awarded once every two years by the British Society for the History of Science for 'the best English-language scholarly book in the history of science, technology and medicine.' 


Since completing my PhD from University College London in 2012, I have held an ERC-funded collaborative Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Cambridge (2012-2017); and a Wellcome Trust-funded Medical Humanities Fellowship at the University of Oxford (2017-2019).

Vernacular Medicine in Colonial India (CUP, 2019)  explores how the colonized peoples negotiated with and reshaped western medicine. It examines the interactions between British state, Indian nationalist print cultures and indigenous commercial interests relating to public health governance in India. The official health policy of the state promoted state medicine or biomedicine. The book tracks how, despite the state’s opposition, a medical practice that was marginal in Europe could become a mainstream aspect of public health in the colony. Combining insights from the history of colonial medicine and the cultural histories of family in British India, the book examines the processes through which Western homoeopathy was translated and indigenised in the colony as a symbol of Indian nationalism, a specific Hindu religious worldview, an economic vision and a disciplining regimen of everyday life.

Chosen Peoples: Bible, Race and Empire in the Nineteenth Century (MUP, 2020) explores how biblical themes and metaphors shaped narratives of racial, national and imperial identity in the long nineteenth century. It responds to the recent ‘global turn’ in the historiography in its exploration of these narratives as they developed across a very wide range of different contexts: from North America to Central Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Ireland and Australasia. 

My current research, provisionally titled Healing Heathen Lands: Christianity, Medicine, Empire critically analyses the role of British Protestant missions and transnational humanitarianism in the making of colonial public health in India. I examine how the theologically shaped ideas of missionaries on disease and healing interacted with colonial public health policies. While tracing the relationship of British medical missions with the colonial (and the post-colonial) state, I track the response of Indians to Christianity and Christian missions. I am particularly focusing on missionary engagement with control of leprosy, famines and venereal diseases.

I have collaboratively organised conferences on themes such as ‘The Bible, Race and Nation in the 19th c’ (Cambridge, 2014) and ‘Orientalism and Its Institutions’ (Cambridge, 2016).


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Devlopment Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


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