Dirks, Nicholas B. 1950-

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Dirks, Nicholas B. 1950-


Born 1950.


Office—Department of History, Columbia University, 208 Low Library, 960 Schermerhorn Ext., 1180 Amsterdam Ave., MC 2527, New York, NY 10027; fax: 212-854-5401. E-mail[email protected]


Writer, historian, anthropologist, ethnohistorian, and educator. Columbia University, New York, NY, vice president for arts and sciences, Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology, professor of history, and chair, department of anthropology; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, professor of history, professor of anthropology, and director of Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies.


Faculty Recognition Award, University of Michigan, 1994.


The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1987, 2nd edition, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1993.

(Editor) Colonialism and Culture, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1992.

(Editor, with Geoff Eley and Sherry B. Ortner) Culture/Power/History: A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1994.

(Editor, with Sherry B. Ortner and Geoff Eley) Children in Moral Danger and the Problem of Government in Third Republic France ("Princeton Studies in Culture/Power/History" series), Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1997.

(Editor) In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.

Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2001.

The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.

Contributor to books, including Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament, edited by van der Veer and Breckenridge, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1993; and The Historic Turn in the Human Sciences, edited by T. McDonald, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1996.

Contributor to periodicals, including Representations.


Nicholas B. Dirks is a professor of history and anthropology at Columbia University. His research focuses on the historical and anthropological aspects of South Asia, particularly the Tamil-speaking regions, and on the period of British colonial rule in the area. In addition, Dirks teaches courses and conducts additional research in areas such as historical anthropology; social, political, and cultural theory; the history of social thought; and the philosophy of history.

Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India centers on Dirks's ideas of how the long-term British colonial rule of India required a deliberate and calculated manipulation of the Indian caste system. For Dirks, the British used the caste system as a means of organizing and controlling the various social groups and hierarchical layers of Indian society. Under the weight of almost 200 years of British colonialism, "caste was made far more pervasive, totalizing, and uniform than ever before," noted a reviewer in the Chronicle of Higher Education. John F. Riddick, writing in Library Journal, concluded that "this groundbreaking work of interpretation demands a careful scholarly reading and response."

In The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain, Dirks examines and refutes a long-held belief that British colonial rule of India was acquired in an accidental, almost absentminded way. Rather, Dirks asserts, exposure of deep corruption in the East India Company during the Warren Hastings impeachment trial "persuaded the government to step in and administer what the British regarded as a vulnerable, backward territory," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. He carefully examines the ideas and actions of Edmund Burke, the man responsible for uncovering the troubles at the heart of the East India Company. Dirks argues that Britain was not a benevolent force interested in helping Indian society. Instead, British adventure in India was plagued by corruption but deliberately manipulated to seem like a humanitarian, civilizing mission that, almost as an afterthought, also aided the British economy. "Dirks says forcefully, indeed repetitively, that empire itself was the scandal, that British world power, wealth and, more, the very identities of Britain and of Europe were results of empire," commented Nicholas Howe in the Independent. Linda Long-Van Brocklyn, writing on eHistory, called the book a "very well written text" and noted that "Dirks has an engaging writing style that typically flows well." Long-Van Brocklyn concluded that Dirks's "book attempts to show just how strongly empire and the imperial quest shaped what it meant to be European in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries."



Chronicle of Higher Education, December 7, 2001, Nina C. Ayoub, "Nota Bene," review of Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India.

Independent (London, England), June 16, 2006, Stephen Howe, "Conquerors and Criminals," review of The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain.

Journal of Modern History, December, 1999, Mary Lynn Stewart, review of Children in Moral Danger and the Problem of Government in Third Republic France, p. 963.

Library Journal, January, 1999, Kent Worcester, review of In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century, p. 110; November 1, 2001, John F. Riddick, review of Castes of Mind, p. 107.

Publishers Weekly, February 13, 2006, review of The Scandal of Empire, p. 74.


Columbia University Department of Anthropology Web site,http://www.columbia.edu/cu/anthropology/ (December 2, 2006), biography of Nicholas B. Dirks.

eHistory,http://ehistory.osu.edu/ (December 2, 2006), Linda Long-Van Brocklyn, review of The Scandal of Empire.

University Record,http://www.umich.edu/~urecord/ (October 3, 1994), "Faculty Awards.*"