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Idaho State University
Arunima Datta headshot

Arunima Datta

Assistant Professor - Modern Asian and World History; Gender Studies

Office: LA 331



Ph.D., National University of Singapore


Dr. Datta is a historian of South and Southeast Asia and the British Empire. Her main area of research interest focuses on the transnational mobility of South Asians in the colonial period (nineteenth and twentieth century) across different parts of the British Empire. Much of Dr. Datta’s research has simultaneously also focused on themes of labor history, transnational Indian nationalism, women’s and gender history.

Dr. Datta’s monograph, Fleeting Agencies in a Rubber Empire: Indian Coolie Women in British Malaya, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. She has also published a number of articles and chapters, concerning South Asian labor, migration and women’s histories. Her current research project is centered around the migration and mobility of Indian Travelling Ayahs (travelling nannies) across the British Empire in the nineteenth and twentieth century.

Dr. Datta also serves as a member of the editorial board for the journal Gender & History, Journal of Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society and Asian Journal of Social Science Studies.


Fleeting Agencies in Rubber Empire: Indian Coolie Women in British Malaya, Cambridge University Press, 2020, forthcoming.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles and Chapters

“Intimate Lives on Rubber Plantations: The textures of Indian coolie relations in British Malaya,” in Crispin Bates (ed), Indenture and After: Gender, Agency and Resistance, Cambridge University Press, 2020 (forthcoming).

“Knocker Ups: A Social History of Waking up in Victorian Britain’s Industrial Towns,” (accepted with minor revisions) Journal of Victorian Culture, 2019

“Negotiating Gendered Spaces in Colonial Press: Wives of European Planters in British Malaya,” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, Vol 18: 3, (December 2017).

“Immorality’, Nationalism and the Colonial State in British Malaya: Indian ‘coolie’ women’s intimate lives as ideological battleground”, Special Edition in Journal of Women’s History Review, Vol 25: 4, (2016), pp. 584-601.

“Social Memory and Indian Women from Malaya and Singapore in the Rani of Jhansi Regiment”, Journal of Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol 88, Part 2, No. 309, (2015), pp. 77-103.

“Translating the Empire: Travelling Indian Ayahs and the Empire’s ‘Performances’ in Britain,” (under review).

Other Publications

“Punkhawallahs: Keeping British India Cool,” in History Today, Volume 69, Issue 9, September 2019.

Book Reviews

Book review “Gender Relations in an Indonesian Society: Bugis Practices of Sexuality and Marriage,” authored by Nurul Ilmi Idrus, Asian Journal of Social Studies, Vol. 47 Issue 3, 2019.

Book review of “Cultural Politics of Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Asia,” edited by Tiantian Zheng, Southeast Asian Studies, Vol. 7 (3), 2018.

Book review of “Tamils and the haunting of Justice: History and recognition in Malaysia’s plantations,” authored by Andrew C. Willford, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Vol49, No. 1, February 2018.

Book Review of “Indian and Chinese Immigrant Communities: Comparative Perspectives,” edited by Jayati Bhattacharya and Coonoor Kripalani, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 52, No. 34, 26 Aug, 2017.

Book review of “Tragic Orphans: Indians in Malaysia,” authored by Carl Vadivella Belle, Asian Journal of Social Science, Vol. 44 Issue 3, 2016.

Review of "Where Gendered Spaces Bend: The Rubber Phenomenon in Northern Laos," authored by Anna-Klara Lindeborg, Dissertation Reviews, 3 October 2015.

Current Projects

Caring for the Empire: Indian Travelling Ayahs in the British Empire (manuscript in preparation)

The Empire Strikes Back: Challenging British Colonialism after the First World War (co-editing the volume, manuscript in preparation for Bloomsbury Press)

Courses Taught

HIST 1105: Foundations of Europe
HIST 1120: Themes in Global History: Bandits, Pirates and Outlaws
HIST 1102: World History II
HIST 1100: History in Film
HIST 4452: Gender and Sexuality