Gunnel Cederlöf, born 1960, is professor of history at Uppsala University since 2011. From 2014 to 2015, she is a research fellow at the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment. During this period, she is also a guest professor at the Linnaeus University, the Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, and a researcher at Uppsala University, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History. From Sept. 2014 to Sept. 2019, she is a Visiting Professor at School of Humanities, Shiv Nadar University, India. The appointment is part of an initiative for developing environmental research in the humanities and social sciences. It relates to KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory.
Her work spans the environmental, legal and colonial history of early modern and modern India and the British Empire. Her PhD thesis in history enquired into agrarian labour and rural transformation in the 20th century and was published as Bonds Lost: Subordination, Conflict and Mobilisation in Rural South India (1997). She has been a visiting scholar at SCAS, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies (2000), Oxford University (2000-01), Jawaharlal Nehru University (2010), and Calcutta University (stints 2004-2013). She was the Director of the Forum for Advanced Studies in Arts, Languages, and Theology at Uppsala University (2006-08).
At KTH, Cederlöf teaches Miljöhistoria (7.5hp) and is in charge of the collaboration in environmental history between Uppsala University, particularly the Master’s Programme in Global Environmental History, and KTH/the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment. She also holds the responsibility for developing collaborations in the field with universities in South Asia.
Over the years, Cederlöf’s research has focused on relationships between natural conditions, political power, social change, and legal rights. It has particularly targeted the situation of the most vulnerable sections of society during social transformations – dalits (earlier untouchable casts) and adivasis (“tribal” people). A larger study on South India was published as Landscapes and the Law: Environmental Politics, Regional Histories, and Contests over Nature (2008).
Her present research investigates governance, subject and citizen rights, and the formation of new polities at the time when the British Empire took shape in Asia, in a region that was particularly exposed to challenging climatic conditions. More specifically it enquires into the role of commerce, law and property, and the enabling and constraining conditions of the ecology, the monsoon, and natural disasters. The study Founding an Empire on India’s North-eastern Frontiers, 1790-1840 (2014) combines climate history and legal history in order to clarify how British rule formed to control the large region where the southwestern part of the Silk Road network linked India to China, which is via east Bengal, today’s northeast India, Burma and Yunnan.
Cederlöf heads the research project Boundaries, Polities and the Making of a Citizen: The Establishment of Colonial Rule in Northern East Bengal, funded by the Swedish Research Council.
Collaboration and boards
Cederlöf is the Vice Chair of STINT. Since 2007, she coordinates the research network Ecology and Society together with Mahesh Rangarajan, Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (2007-2011), Asmita Kabra, Ambedkar University Delhi, and Rohan D’Souza Jawaharlal Nehru University and Shiv Nadar University. She is a member of the editorial boards for, och Swedish Missiological Themes.
2014,, New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-809057-9
2008,, New Delhi: Permanent Black. ISBN 81-7824-208-7
2009, with Mahesh Rangarajan, Eds., ‘Predicaments of Power and Nature in India’, Conservation and Society, 2009:3. ISSN 0972-4923
2005, with K. Sivaramakrishnan, Eds.,, Delhi: Permanent Black (2005) and Seattle: University of Washington Press (2006), second edition in paperback (2012). ISBN 0-295-98531-3
1997,, New Delhi: Manohar Publishers. ISBN 81-7304-193-8
Articles and book chapters (selection, since 2005)
2014, ‘Monsoon Landscapes: Spatial politics and mercantile colonial practice in India’, in Ursula Münster et al, Rachel Carson Centre Perspectives: Asian Environment, München; Ludwig-Maximilians Universität. ISSN 2190-5088.
2013, ‘Rule against Nature: Founding an empire on India’s North-East Frontiers’, NMML Occasional Paper, History and Society New Series. Vol. 20. New Delhi.
2013, ‘Introduction’, in The Autobiography of a Revolutionary in British India, Kali Ghosh, New Delhi: Social Science Press, ISBN 978-81-87358-75-6.
2013, ‘“Natural Boundaries”: Negotiating Land Rights and Establishing Rule in Northern East-Bengal 1790s–1820s’, in Alpa Shah and Crispin Bates, Eds., Savage Attack: Tribal Insurgency in South Asia, Chapter 2, New Delhi: Social Science Press, ISBN 978-81-87358-69-5.
2011, ‘Narratives of Rights: Codifying People and Land in Early Nineteenth-Century Nilgiris’, in Mahesh Rangarajan and K. Sivaramakrishnan, Eds., India’s Environmental History Volume 1: From Ancient Times to the Colonial Period, New Delhi: Permanent Black, 374–430.
2009, with Mahesh Rangarajan, ‘Predicaments of Power and Nature in India: An Introduction’, Conservation and Society, 2009:3.
2009, ’Anticipating Independent India. The Idea of the Lutheran Christian Nation and Indian Nationalism’, in Richard Young and Daniel Jeyaraj, Eds., India and the Indianness of Christianity: Essays on Understanding—Historical, Theological, and Bibliographical—In Honor of Robert Eric Frykenberg, Grand Rapids, MI, and Cambridge: Eerdmans Wm. B. Publishing Co., Chap. 10: 196–216. Also published in Swedish Missiological Themes, Vol. 94:4, Swedish Institute of Missionary Research, Uppsala 2006.
2009, ‘Fixed Boundaries, Fluid Landscapes: British Expansion into Northern East Bengal in the 1820s’, Indian Economic and Social History Review, Vol. 46:4, 513–540.
2009, ‘Battles over Law: The (re-)formation of legal rights to nature in the Nilgiri Hills, early nineteenth century’, Proceedings of the Biodiversity and Livelihoods Conference 26th-28th March 2009 Coonoor, The Nilgiris, Editors: Dr Janet Seeley; Pratim Roy; Rajyashree Dutt. Bangalore: Write-Arm.
2008, ‘The Agency of the Colonial Subject: Claims and Rights in Forestlands in Early Nineteenth-Century Nilgiris’, in Marine Carrin and H. Tambs-Lyche, People of the Jangal: Reformulating Identities and Adaptations in Crisis. New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 227–262.
2006, with Deborah Sutton, ‘The Aboriginal Toda: On Indigeneity, Exclusivism and Privileged Access to Land in the Nilgiri Hills, South India’, in Beppe Karlsson and Tanka B. Subba, Eds., Indigeneity in India, London: Keegan Paul, 160-186.)
2005, with K. Sivaramakrishnan, ‘Ecological Nationalisms: Claiming Nature for Making History’, G. Cederlöf and K. Sivaramakrishnan, Eds., Ecological Nationalisms: Nature, Livelihoods and Identities in South Asia, Delhi: Permanent Black and Seattle: University of Washington Press.
2005, ‘The Toda Tiger: Debates on Custom, Utility and Rights in Nature, South India 1820–1843’, in G. Cederlöf and K. Sivaramakrishnan, Eds., Ecological Nationalisms: Nature, Livelihoods and Identities in South Asia, Delhi: Permanent Black and Seattle: University of Washington Press, 65-89.
2005, ‘Conflicting Constructions of Community. Land Conflicts in Nineteenth Century Nilgiris’, in Calcutta Historical Journal, Nr. 2, 2005. (Short version with different focus than the article with the same title above.)