Affiliations: Center for Comparative Media; Film & Media Program, School of the Arts; Institute for Research on Women, Gender, & Sexuality (IRWGS)
I am a scholar of film and media, specializing in South Asian cinemas, with methodological investments in film and media studies, feminist decolonial historiography, environmental humanities, and technology studies. My new book, Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City (Columbia University Press, 2020), presents a practitioner’s eye-view of filmmaking activity in late colonial Bombay, approaching cinema as an ecology of energy relations that connect the studio and the screen. The book investigates the material relations between cinema’s bodies, machines, aesthetics, and environments as they intersected with practices of modernity and freedom in late colonial India. I am currently working on a second book project that presents a media history of indentured labor and South-South migrations, spanning photography, communications infrastructures, and film traffic across India, Mauritius, Fiji, and South Africa. It is tentatively titled, Dark Waters: A Media History of Oceanic Imaginations and Plantation Capitalism.
I edit the peer-reviewed journal BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies and have published in journals such as Film History and Feminist Media Histories. In a previous life I worked in Mumbai’s film and TV industries as an assistant director, writer, and cameraperson on films such as Omkara (2006). Committed to making academic research more accessible to the public, I have curated exhibitions such as Maya Mahal: An Enchanted Look at Hindi Cinema (Kolkata, 2013), and A Cinematic Imagination: Josef Wirsching and the Bombay Talkies (Serendipity Arts Festival, Goa, 2017). I am actively involved with the online film archive and annotation platform
www.indiancine.ma and run an Instagram account to popularize early cinema @wildcatofbombay.
In Spring 2020, I was a research fellow at The Institute for Ideas & Imagination, Paris, and in AY 2021-22 I will be a faculty fellow at the Heyman Center, New York. Other honors include fellowships from the Charles Wallace India Trust, the American Institute for Indian Studies, NYU’s Corrigan, Mainzer and Andrew Sauter grants, Public Voices fellowship, and Columbia’s Lenfest, Global Humanities, and Provost’s Junior Faculty Diversity grants. Bombay Hustle was longlisted for the the Kraszna-Krausz Moving Image Book Award and “Somewhere Between Human, Nonhuman, and Woman” won the 2021 Katherine Singer Kovács Essay award from the Society of Cinema & Media Studies (SCMS).
Some upcoming edited volumes and collaborative projects include a special issue on “Decolonial Feminisms” for Feminist Media Histories (8.1) co-edited with Dr. Pavitra Sundar, a special issue of BioScope titled “Keywords in South Asian Screen Studies” (12.1), an illustrated anthology titled Beyond the Silver Screen: Josef Wirsching and An Unseen History of Indian Cinema (Mapin), an edited volume on Asian Cinemas co-edited with Dr. Zhen Zhang, Dr. Sangjoon Lee, and Dr. Intan Paramaditha (Routledge), and a conference on social media and violence to be held in Spring 2022.
Cinemas of India; Visual Cultures of Modern South Asia; Media Materialisms; Theory & Culture; Cinematic Cities | Comparative Modernities; Cinema and Colonialism; Intro to Comparative Media
Ph.D in Cinema Studies, New York University (2015); M.Phil in Cinema Studies, School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University (2009); M.A in Mass Communication, Jamia Millia Islamia University (2004).
(available to view on https://columbia.academia.edu/DebashreeMukherjee)
Forthcoming. “Archival Conjugations: A Queer Trace of Love and Loss in Bombay Cinema,” in Ranjani Mazumdar and Neepa Majumdar (eds.) A Companion to Indian Cinema, Wiley-Blackwell Publications.
2020. Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City, Columbia University Press.
2020. “Somewhere between Human, Nonhuman, and Woman: Shanta Apte’s Theory of Exhaustion,” Feminist Media Histories, 6(3): 21-51.
2020. “Noisy Women: Female Defendants & Impassioned Lady Barristers in 1930s Bombay Cinema,” in Shai Heredia & Oliver Hussain (eds.) “Loud Mess,” NANG, 8: 64-70.
2020. “Researching Women’s Film History,” in The International Encyclopedia of Gender, Media, and Communication, Wiley. With Melanie Bell, Shelley Cobb, Christine Gledhill, Laraine Porter, Rashmi Sawhney, and Ulrike Sieglohr.
2019. “A Specter Haunts Bombay: Censored Itineraries of a Lost Communistic Film,” Film History, 31(4): 29-59.
2016. “Tracking Film Utopias: Technology, Labor, and Secularism in Bombay Cinema (1930s-1940s),” in Anupama Rao and Arvind Rajagopal (eds.) Media/Utopia: Imagination, History, Technology, Routledge, pp. 81-102.
2016. “Scandalous Evidence: Looking for the Bombay Film Actress in an Absent Archive (1930s-1940s),’ in C Gledhill & J Knight (eds.) Doing Women’s Film History: Reframing Cinema’s Past and Future, University of Illinois Press.
2014. Filmi Jagat, A Scrapbook: Shared Universe of Early Hindi Cinema. With K Bhaumik and R Allana. Art Heritage & Niyogi Books.
2013. “Creating Cinema’s Reading Publics: The Emergence of Film Journalism in 1930s and 1940s Bombay,” in Ravi Sundaram (ed.) No Limits: Media Studies from India. Oxford University Press, pp. 165-198.
2013. “Notes on a Scandal: Writing Women’s Film History Against an Absent Archive,” BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies, 4(1): 9-30.
2013. “Out of Sight: Archiving Hidden Histories of Film Practice,” Art Connect, 7(1): 42-59.
2011. “Letter from an Unknown Woman: The Film Actress in Late Colonial Bombay,’ in Niharika Dinkar (ed.) Framing Women: Gender in the Colonial Archive, MARG Special issue, 62(4): 54-65.
2010. “A Material World: Notes on an Interview with Ram Tipnis,’ BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies, 1(2): 199-205.
2009. ‘Good Girls, Bad Girls,’ Circuits of Cinema, Seminar special issue, 598: 21-27.