Rachel Sturman

Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies

On leave for spring 2019 semester

Rachel Sturman received her A.B. from the University of Chicago and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. She specializes in the history of modern South Asia, with a focus on colonial and postcolonial India. A historian of modern social and intellectual formations, her first book, The Government of Social Life in Colonial India: Liberalism, Religious Law, and Women’s Rights, examined the intimate and wide-ranging political effects of colonial British property law in India.  Her current book project traces the history of the construction industry in the city of Mumbai during the past century, exploring processes of building and dwelling in India’s most iconic megacity. The courses she offers examine histories of empire, human rights, the politics of development, and media, technology, and commodity cultures, as well as the histories of early modern India and modern India & Pakistan.


  • Ph.D., University of California; Davis, 2001
  • M.A., University of California; Davis, 1993
  • A.B., University of Chicago, 1991


Work in Progress

Book: “Infrastructural Life in the City of Mumbai: A History of the Construction Industry” 

sturman book

Article: “Skill in Construction” [Submitted to Public Culture, special issue on “Subaltern Urbanisms”]


The Government of Social Life in Colonial India: Liberalism, Religious Law and Women’s Rights, Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Journal Forum

“Gender and the Human,” Gender & History 23, 2 (August 2011).


“Indian Indentured Labor and the History of International Rights Regimes.” American Historical Review, 119, 5 (December 2014): 1439-1465. 

Invited contribution: “Marriage & Family in Colonial Hindu Law.” In Hinduism and Law: An Introduction. Cambridge Companion Series. Edited by Timothy Lubin, Donald R. Davis, Jr., & Jayanth K. Krishnan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010: 89-104.

“Marriage and the Morality of Exchange: Defining the Terrain of Law in Late Nineteenth Century Western India.” In Decentering Empire: Britain, India, and the Transcolonial World. Edited by Durba Ghosh and Dane Kennedy. Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 2006: 51–75.

“Property and Attachments: Defining Autonomy and the Claims of Family in Nineteenth-Century Western India.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 47, 3 (July 2005): 611–637.