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Brian Hatcher
Brian Hatcher
Contact Info:
Tufts University
Department of Religion
Eaton Hall, Room 314 
Medford, MA 02155

Office: 617-627-3418
Fax: 617-627-6615

Department Chair
Packard Chair of Theology

PhD, Harvard University
MA, Harvard University
MDiv, Yale University
BA, Carleton College

Research Interests:
Hinduism and Religion in modern South Asia Religion and Colonialism
Modern Bengal

Brian Hatcher's research focuses on the transformation of Hinduism in colonial and contemporary South Asia, with a special interest in early colonial Bengal. His publications explore issues of religious reform, vernacular modernity, the work and significance of translation, and the colonial life of Sanskrit. An expert on the life and work of Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar, he is also known for his interpretations of "bourgeois Hinduism" and modern Hindu eclecticism.

His most recent book, Hinduism Before Reform (Harvard University Press, 2020), offers the first ever in-depth comparison of the early histories of the Swaminanarayan Sampraday and the Brahmo Samaj. When treated as modern Hindu reform movements, the Swaminanarayan Sampraday and the Brahmo Samaj tend to be trapped within normative frameworks structuring judgments about progress, Hindu modernity, and the place and role of religion in the Indian nation-state. Hinduism Before Reform asks what we might discover if we were to compare the Swaminanarayan Sampraday and the Brahmo Samaj not as reform movements but as religious polities projected by two innovative religious lords active in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. What might we learn about the articulation of Hinduism during the early colonial period, and how might that enable us to rethink the eventual encompassment of the Swaminanarayan Sampraday and the Brahmo Samaj within an emergent "empire of reform" during the later nineteenth century?

For his next book-length project, Brian Hatcher is seeking to map the spread and chronicle the history of the Dasnami Sampraday in southwestern Bengal between the eighteenth century and the present. Combining field research with textual study, this project aims to chart the rise and fall of an influential set of religious actors who placed their stamp on the landscape and religious life of lower Bengal. Research for this project has been supported by fellowships from the American Institute of Indian Studies and the American Philosophical Society.

During the spring of 2019, Brian Hatcher was the J.P. and Beena Khaitan Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.

Watch a video of Brian Hatcher's lecture Vidyasagar: Articulate Subject of the Non-Renaissance", delivered at Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata, India on September 28, 2019.


Hinduism Before Reform (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2020)

Vidyasagar The Life and After-life of an Eminent Indian (Routledge 2014)

Bourgeois Hinduism, or Faith of the Modern Vedantists: Rare Discourses from Early Colonial Bengal (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)

Eclecticism and Modern Hindu Discourse (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999)

Idioms of Improvement: Vidyasagar and Cultural Encounter in Bengal (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996)


Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar, Hindu Widow Marriage: An Epochal Work on Social Reform from Colonial India. Translated by Brian A. Hatcher (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011)

Edited Volumes:

Hinduism in the Modern World. Edited by Brian Hatcher

Trans-colonial Modernities in South Asia. Edited by Michael S. Dodson and Brian A. Hatcher (New York: Routledge, 2012)

Recent Articles and Book Chapters:

"Imitation, Then and Now: On the Emergence of Philanthropy in Early Colonial Calcutta" Modern Asian Studies. Special Issue: Charity and Philanthropy in South Asia 52/1 (2018). 62-98. DOI 10.1017/S0026749X17000324

"Translation in the Zone of the Dubash: Colonial Mediations of Anuvāda," Journal of Asian Studies 76/1 (2017). 1-28. DOI 10.1017/S0021911816001571

"Take me to the River: Religion Seen and Unseen in Early Colonial Bengal," in: In Quest of the Historian’s Craft: Essays in Honour of Professor B. B. Chaudhuri, Part II: Polity, Society and Culture, edited by Arun Bandyopadhyay and Sanjukta Das Gupta. New Delhi: Manohar, 2017. 593-616.

"Eka Ādhunika Naciketā: Rabīndranāth o Upaniṣad" (in Bengali), in: Itihāser baicitrya: Adhyāpaka Binayabhūṣaṇa Caudhurī sammānāgrantha, edited by Gautam Niyogi, Nirbāna Basu and Saumitra Śrīmānī. Kolkata: Bangiya Itihāsa Samiti, 2017. 172-82.

"India's Many Puritans: Connectivity and Friction in the Study of Modern Hinduism" History Compass 15/1 (2017). 1-12. DOI 10.1111/hic3.12369

"Situating the Swaminarayan Tradition in the Historiography of Modern Hindu Reform," in: Swaminarayan Hinduism: Tradition, Adaptation and Identity, edited by Raymond B. Williams and Yogi Trivedi. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016. 6-37.

Recent Lectures:

"Before Reform: The Swaminarayan Sampraday and Brahmo Samaj as Early Colonial Religious Polities," Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, May 30, 2019.

"Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar: Another Look at Frustration," Asiatic Society, Kolkata, December 14, 2018.

"A Dasnami Network in Colonial Bengal," European Conference on South Asian Studies, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, July 26-27, 2018.

"Mapping a Monastic Mandala: Dasnami Networks in Colonial Southwestern Bengal," Department of Archaeology, University of Calcutta, August 29, 2017.

"The Joys and Challenges of Reading Rammohun Roy," Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, February 21, 2017.