Rohit De

Rohit De's picture
Assistant Professor
HGS 2680
Fields of interest: 

Modern South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), Global Legal History, Law and Society, Law and Colonialism, British Empire, Nationalism and Decolonization in Asia and Africa, Comparative Constitutionalism

Rohit De is a lawyer and historian of modern South Asia and focuses on legal history of the Indian subcontinent and the common law world. Prof De is interested in not just what the law was, but what did people, both experts and ordinary men and women, think it was and how did they use this knowledge to negotiate their daily lives.
Professor De’s book The People’s Constitution: Litigious Citizens and the Making of Indian Democracy (forthcoming 2018) explores how the Indian constitution, despite its elite authorship and alien antecedents, came to permeate everyday life and imagination in India during its transition from a colonial state to a democratic republic. Mapping the use and appropriation of constitutional language and procedure by diverse groups such as butchers and sex workers, street vendors and petty businessmen, journalists and women social workers, it offers a constitutional history from below. He continues to write on the social and intellectual foundations of constitutionalism in South Asia.
He is currently working on two research projects. The first, supported by the Social Science Research Council, stands at the intersection of multiple fields: histories of human rights; decolonization and the Cold War; diaspora studies; and history of the legal profession. Rights from the Left: Decolonization, Diasporas and a Global History of Rebellious Lawyering , demonstrates how events conventionally understood as “national political trials” in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Seychelles, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, British Guyana and the United Kingdom were produced by, and as part of, a transnational movement for civil liberties in the 1950s. The project follows the careers of lawyers who defended unpopular causes across space and time, to offer an alternate history of universal rights and civil liberties that arise out of Asia and Africa and is mediated through India, Chinese and Caribbean diasporas.
The second traces the evolution of the postcolonial developmental state through different methods, including the disciplining of the economy through criminal law; and through the collective biographies of the women in the Indian Constituent Assembly.
Prof De is also interested in comparative constitutional law and is an Associate Research Scholar in Law at the Yale Law School. He has assisted Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan of the Supreme Court of India and worked on constitution reform projects in Nepal and Sri Lanka. He writes on contemporary legal issues in South Asia.
Prof De received his Ph.D from Princeton University, where he was elected to the Society of Woodrow Wilson Scholars. His dissertation won the Law and Society Association Prize for best representing outstanding work in law and society research in 2013. He was the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for History and Economics and a fellow of Trinity Hall at the University of Cambridge before coming to Yale in 2014.  Rohit received his law degrees from the Yale Law School and the National Law School of India University, Bangalore.
Rohit teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in South Asian history; postcolonial histories of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; on Indian constitutional culture and political thought, as well as courses on global legal history, law and colonialism and the legal profession.You can learn more about Prof De’s work in his interview in the Yale Historical Review and to the Macmillan Report

Selected Publications

Works in Progress
  • The Peoples’ Constitution: Litigious Citizens and the Making of India’s Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2018) (forthcoming)
  • “Between Midnight and Republic: Theory and Practice of India’s Dominion Status” (under review)
  • The Maternal State: Sex Work, Social Work and the Foundations of the Indian Welfare State (under review)
Articles and Chapters
Reviews, Opinion Pieces and Miscellany
Online Talks
Indian Ocean
South Asia
Empires & Colonialism
Race & Ethnicity