Ghosh to lead Cornell’s Society for the Humanities

Durba Ghosh, professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences, will become the Taylor Family Director of the Society for the Humanities, starting on January 1, 2025.

Recently the faculty director of the Humanities Scholars Program (A&S), Ghosh brings to the Society scholarly background in the history of British colonialism on the Indian subcontinent; academic focuses on gender and sexuality and South Asia; and broad experience with interdisciplinary collaborations. Stepping down June 30 after leading the society since 2017 is Paul Fleming, the L. Sanford and Jo Mills Reis Professor of Humanities (A&S).

“I am delighted to welcome Durba Ghosh as the director of the Society for the Humanities,” said Rachel Bean, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Durba has an outstanding record of scholarly accomplishments and academic leadership of Cornell programs that showcase multi-disciplinary approaches to the humanities.

“I’m also deeply grateful to Paul Fleming for his leadership and vision for the past seven years and the monumental successes he’s brought for humanities scholars and students at Cornell and throughout central New York,” Bean said.

Alexander Livingston, associate professor of history (A&S), will serve as interim director of the Society for Humanities during the fall semester of 2024 while Ghosh is on research leave as a member at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton.

Ghosh is the author of two books, “Sex and the Family in Colonial India” and “Gentlemanly Terrorists,” as well as many journal articles and book chapters all focusing on the relationship between colonial agents, officials and elites and those who were colonized. Her current book project, “Moving Monuments,” follows the movement of commemorative statues made in London and the British isles to various sites across the empire, most notably the Indian subcontinent.
Since arriving at Cornell in 2005, Ghosh has taught courses on modern South Asia, the British Empire, gender and colonialism.

At Cornell, Ghosh has been involved with the Society for the Humanities, the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, the South Asia Program, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, the Institute for Social Sciences and the CIVIC initiative that emerged out of the Radical Collaborations projects.

From its inception in 2019 to the 2023 spring semester, Ghosh was the inaugural director of the Humanities Scholars Program, an outgrowth of the Society for the Humanities. She worked closely with Fleming to launch the program.

Fleming concludes his term at the helm of the Society for the Humanities leaving a legacy of growth. In addition to founding the Humanities Scholars Program, he brought in a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to start the Rural Humanities initiative. Fleming completed the final report to the Mellon Foundation on the CNY Humanities Corridor, ushering Cornell into a new endowed phase of this multi-university collaboration.

Under Fleming’s leadership, the Society for the Humanities expanded its grant offerings, adding the Humanities Impact grant program and the Minnowbrook Writing Retreat. There has also been a high rate of success among the postdocs who have served as Society Fellows under Fleming’s tenure. Many have received tenure track positions at prestigious universities.

Cornell’s Society for the Humanities was established in 1966 as one of the first humanities institutes in North America. Located in the historic home of Cornell's first president, Andrew Dickson White, the Society brings together distinguished visiting fellows, Cornell faculty and graduate student fellows to pursue research on broadly interdisciplinary themes. The Society sponsors numerous internal grants, workshops and funding opportunities for Cornell faculty and graduate students in the humanities as well as hosting annual lectures, workshops, colloquia and conferences organized by Cornell’s humanities faculty.

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		 Durba Ghosh talks with students