Angana P. Chatterji is an anthropologist and historian of the present. Her work, focused on human rights and cultural survival, integrates scholarship, research, teaching, and advocacy in linking the roles of citizen and intellectual. An advocate for social justice, Chatterji has been working with postcolonial and subaltern social movements, civil society and citizens groups, and state and other institutions toward enabling participatory democracy.
Chatterji’s work focuses on issues of majoritarianism, religion in the public sphere, and state racisms; nationalisms, minoritization, and gendered violence; and development, globalization, and international relations. Her scholarly work, and policy and advocacy research, focuses on India and South Asia, where her perspectives have been defined by a lifetime of learning, along with work in the United States. She has worked with issues of public lands reform and forest policy, customary and indigenous land rights, and livelihood security and community-based governance as mediated by gender, caste, and class, ethnicity and religion, and displacement and statelessness. In the past decade, she has been mapping the intersections of communal and gendered violence as they impact the rights and freedoms of ethnic, religious, and gender minority groups in Orissa, India, and issues of conflict, militarization, and securitization as they contravene human rights in Kashmir. She is beginning work on conflict resolution, cultural survival, and reconciliation in Nepal. She also works with issues of diaspora and identity politics in the United States.
Chatterji’s scholarship and teaching spans issues of colonization and postcoloniality. Her intellectual interests include issues of power and identity, and postcolonial, poststructural, and feminist critique. Focused on research that seeks to take an advocacy position, she has been involved in shaping participatory and subaltern research methodologies, and multi-sector policy analysis mechanisms, using critical and cross/interdisciplinary frameworks. Her research is constitutive of archives that bear witness to counter-memory, drawing upon rigorous experimental practices in ethnographic and narrative research, and genealogy, oral historiography, and memory-writing. She draws on various disciplines, including social and cultural anthropology, politics, law, history, and philosophy, Subaltern and Postcolonial Studies, Development Studies, and South Asia Studies.
Chatterji is Co-chair of the Research Project on Armed Conflict and People’s Rights at the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership, University of California at Berkeley. Instituted in April 2012, the project will develop policy and protocol frameworks for protecting people’s rights in situations of internal armed conflict, focusing on India. This project will define provisions for transitional and transformative justice, and address issues governing the conduct of armed operations (by armed forces, paramilitary, police, and non-state armed groups), people’s rights and humanitarian considerations during and after conflict, and holding all parties to the conflict accountable, including through ensuring legal justice.
Chatterji Co-founded the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir with Parvez Imroz in 2008 and served as Co-Convener from April 2008 to May 2012. The first such civil society-based effort in Kashmir, the People’s Tribunal has documented witness/survivor testimonies, investigating legal-political states of exception, disappearances, gendered and sexualized violences, torture, extrajudicial killings, and unknown and mass graves. The Tribunal’s work has evidenced the scope of violence and impunity on the part of state and non-state actors, the impact of militarization, and the extent of human rights violations. The Tribunal’s work on unmarked and unidentified graves was corroborated by the State Human Rights Commission, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, in July 2011, leading to the first formal acknowledgement of the existence of unknown and unidentified graves. The Tribunal’s work has contributed to the internationalization of the Kashmir issue, and to defining the basis for prosecution and psychosocial restitution.
Chatterji served on the faculty in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco from 1997-2011, as Adjunct and Visiting Assistant Professor (1997-2000), Associate Professor (2000-2009), and Professor (2009-2011). At CIIS, since 1999, led by Richard Shapiro, Chatterji enabled the re-envisioning of the Anthropology M.A. and Ph.D. Programs, to create a curriculum in postcolonial anthropology, combining theoretical rigor with advocacy anthropology for social and ecological justice. Following September 11, 2001, she convened the Dialogues for Peace at CIIS, in alliance with Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and interfaith and social justice groups.
Chatterji worked with grassroots social movements from 1984-89 and with policy research and advocacy issues from 1989-97, including with the Indian Social Institute and Planning Commission of India. Chatterji also served as the Director of Research and Senior Consultant, Asia Forest Network, initially housed at the University of California, Berkeley, and was involved in coordinating Network groups in South and Southeast Asia with Mark Poffenberger.
In 2004, Chatterji served on a two-person people’s commission on land and rehabilitation pertaining to human rights violations in the construction of the Indira Sagar Dam in the Narmada Valley. In 2005, Chatterji founded and co-convened the People’s Tribunal on Religious Freedom and Human Rights in Orissa, examining the impact of Hindu nationalism, highlighting increasing criminal activity and human rights violations in the state, and related social, religionized, and gendered violence against Christians, Muslims, Adivasis (indigenous peoples), and Dalits (erstwhile ‘untouchable’ peoples).
Chatterji has served on human rights commissions, offered expert testimony on cases, testified at briefings and hearings, including to United Nations Bodies, the European Parliament Human Rights Subcommittee, United Kingdom Parliament, and United States Congressional Commissions and Task Forces. She has provided expert testimony and affidavits to commissions, asylum hearings, and review boards, and conducted workshops and lectured at various universities and organizations internationally.
Chatterji holds a Bachelor of Arts, Political Science, University of Delhi; a Master of Arts, Political Science, University of Delhi; and a Doctor of Philosophy, Humanities (Individualized Pathway), California Institute of Integral Studies. She is multilingual; with fluency in Bengali and English, near-fluency in Hindi, speaking capacity in Oriya and Urdu, and preliminary comprehension in Kashmiri.
Chatterji’s publications include books, research monographs, reports, peer reviewed articles, and opinion pieces. Chatterji’s present writings include: Violent Gods: Hindu Nationalism in India’s Present; Narratives from Orissa (Three Essays Collective, 2009); Land and Justice: The Struggle for Cultural Survival (Seeds of Hope Series, forthcoming 2012); a co-edited volume, Contesting Nation: Gendered Violence in South Asia; Notes on the Postcolonial Present (Zubaan, Due April 2012); a co-contributed anthology with Tariq Ali, Arundhati Roy et al., Kashmir (Verso, October 2011); and the report entitled, BURIED EVIDENCE: Unknown, Unmarked, and Mass Graves in Indian-administered Kashmir (2009), for which she was lead author.
Chatterji serves on the board of directors of Vasundhara, and the advisory boards of the Kashmir Initiative at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, Green Institute, Network of Indian Environmental Professionals, and World Prout Assembly, and editorial boards of academic journals. She has previously served on the board of directors of the International Rivers Network, Earth Island Institute, and Community Forestry International, and the advisory board of Sustainable Alternatives to the Global Economy. Chatterji also works with social justice groups such as the Coalition Against Communalism, Coalition Against Genocide, and the Campaign To Stop Funding Hate.
Chatterji has received support, including scholarships and research awards, for her work from various institutions, including the Planning Commission of India, Society for Promotion of Wastelands Development, Ford Foundation, Wallace Global Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, SwedForest, Marra Foundation, and the University of California, Berkeley.