Rachel Sturman

Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies

Teaching this semester

ASNS 1036/HIST 1039. Commodity Life: Objects and Histories of India

What kinds of meanings and histories are held within objects? Uses the lens of four objects in the Indian subcontinent—rice, textiles, yoga, and photography—to trace histories of knowledge and skill, of commodification and global circulation, of power relations, and of personal attachments that these objects have generated. Central is thinking through the creative but also power-laden processes of making, using, and interpreting. This approach to the creative potential of analysis infuses class writing, revision, and discussion.

ASNS 2581/HIST 2342. The Making of Modern India and Pakistan

Traces the history of India and Pakistanfrom the rise of British imperial power in the mid-eighteenth century to the present. Topics include the formation of a colonial economy and society; religious and social reform; the emergence of anti-colonial nationalism; the road to independence and partition; and issues of secularism, democracy, and inequality that have shaped post-colonial Indian and Pakistani society. This course is part of the following field(s) of study: South Asia and Colonial Worlds.

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.