JHI-UTSC Digital Humanities Faculty Fellow, 2022-2023

May 11, 2022 by Sonja Johnston

Bhavani Raman is an Associate Professor at the Department of History, University of Toronto. Her research and teaching focus on the histories of colonialism, especially as it pertains to questions of law, administration, and Tamil worlds. Other than a monograph on paperwork and writing in Tamil South India Document Raj: Writing and Scribes in Early Colonial South India (University of Chicago Press, 2012 and Permanent Black 2015), she has published on recordkeeping and property, ethics and elementary education, migration and return in the Bay of Bengal, and the history of Tamil Studies as an interdisciplinary formation. She is currently working on two projects, one, on security laws in South Asia and the second, on history of hydrological infrastructure in the city of Chennai, India using historical maps.

Fellowship Project

Water Marks: DH and Chennai’s Water Archives

This project demonstrates the potential of lexicon-based research in Tamil to annotate hydrological geospatial data visualizations culled from colonial historical maps through research collaboration, self-learning, and skill sharing between researchers and community members. It is part of my critical DH research that analyzes colonial maps of the Indian coastal city, Chennai. Chennai’s hydrological infrastructure bears the legacy of property-centered colonial engineering, race and caste-based city zoning, and cartesian cartographic terms which demarcate land from water, and re-order landscapes using anglophone legal geographical terms. I probe colonial historical maps to mobilize subaltern “use based” and “experience based” histories of water landscapes and infrastructure to unsettle histories of colonial property, eviction and land-centered histories of (post)colonial urbanism.

The JHI-UTSC DH Faculty Fellowship is an 18-month digital scholarship for UTSC faculty members that is supported by the Jackman Humanities Institute, the UTSC Library, the Dean, UTSC and the Office of the Vice Principal Research.