The History Department is proud to announce that in 2015-16, Dr. Durba Mitra will be the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral fellow at the Penn Humanities Forum and the University of Pennsylvania. The theme for the 2015-16 Penn Humanities Forum is “Sex.” Mitra will be working on her book manuscript, tentatively entitled “Sex and The New Science of Society in Colonial Eastern India.” In her book, she explores the significance of female sexuality to the making of social thought in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in eastern India. The book explores how colonial authorities and Bengali intellectuals invoked claims to “scientificity” about female sex in the constitution of new legal codes, modes of evidence, and social theories about Indian society. You can read more about her research plans here. Congratulations on this exciting fellowship, Dr. Mitra!
Tag Archives: Durba Mitra
We undertook a comprehensive study of the role of forensic medicine in the legal adjudication of rape cases in postcolonial India. We studied all publications on medical jurisprudence for India from the late nineteenth century until today in South Asia and analyzed the use of medical jurisprudence in rape cases reported in the high courts in India from 1952 until 2011. Rape has received significant attention in the last two years in international media, leading to the substantial reform of rape laws in India. We argue that for legal reforms to be effective, changes must be made to textbooks, medical protocol, and the use of medical evidence in rape cases. Our research resulted in the publication of our article, “Testing Chastity, Evidencing Rape:” in Economic and Political Weekly, a key peer-reviewed publication on India that brings together academics, researchers, and policy makers.
Professor Durba Mitra‘s graduate class, Gender and History, had a discussion about gender and sexuality in the landscape of New York City next to the statue of J. Marion Sims, the so-called “Father of Gynecology” in Harlem. From 1845-1949, Sims carried out experimental surgeries on slave women to address the issue of persistent fistula after protracted labor in childbirth. He conducted these procedures on slave women without the use of anesthetics, believing that slave women did not need anesthesia for pain relief. While he is memorialized in a statue at 103rd Street and 5th Avenue for his innovative surgical techniques and his contribution to NYC medical institutions, his commitment to slavery and his use of slave women for experimentation is less well known. The memorial bears no marks of this history.