Jayita Sarkar

    Historian. Author. Editor

  • Bio

    Jayita Sarkar is Professor of Global History of Inequalities (from August 1, 2024) at the University of Glasgow's School of Social and Political Sciences in Scotland, UK. Her research and teaching areas are global and transnational histories of decolonisation, capitalism, nuclear infrastructures, South Asia, and the United States. Her first book, Ploughshares and Swords. India’s Nuclear Program in the Global Cold War (Cornell University Press, 2022), was awarded the 2024 Bernard S. Cohn Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies and 2023 Honorable Mention for Global Development Studies Book Award from the International Studies Association. Read the book freely here.


    Jay is currently completing her second book, Atomic Capitalism. A Global History (under contract with Princeton University Press, America in the World series). It is a 100-year history of nuclear sites, from mining to energy to weapons-testing, retold through histories of capitalism, empire, and decolonisation.


    Her third book-length project titled, Connected Partitions: A Global History of Territoriality, traces the idea and practice of territorial divisions from the late 19th century to the present through reservations, enclosures, containment zones, and nation-states, with a focus on global entanglements of South Asia. On adjacent themes of territorial separations, she is co-editing, Partition Machine: Legacies of Territoriality in a Violent World, to be published as Proceedings of the British Academy (Oxford University Press, 2025/6).


    She serves as a series co-editor for InterConnections: The Global Twentieth Century, a book series at University of North Carolina Press that is home to innovative global, international, and transregional histories of the long twentieth century.


    Before joining Glasgow as an Associate Professor in 2022, she was Assistant Professor at Boston University. She has held fellowships at Harvard University, Yale University, MIT, and Dartmouth College. She is currently on research leave as a British Academy Global Innovation Fellow for 2024-25 at the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC.

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    U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki created, in the words of George Orwell, a world “horribly stable” and “a peace that is no peace,” increasing power of the state over the individual and of the United States over the world. Atomic Capitalism critically examines this view and assumptions about preponderance of the United States by placing nuclear infrastructures in a global and transnational perspective.


    The discovery of nuclear things— radium, radioactivity, uranium’s properties of fission, and plutonium, among others— being entangled in Euro-American late imperialism powerfully linked nuclear infrastructures to corporate violence, colonialism (settler and non-settler), and genocide, which characterized late nineteenth and twentieth-century empires. From the 1890s to the 1990s, the uranium cycle and its material infrastructures associated with mining, weapons, and energy gave rise to an extractivist, surveillant, and inegalitarian global system through which capitalist actors and networks benefited by disenfranchising people in faraway colonies, dependent territories, and at home.


    The extraction and surveillance transpired through the expropriation of land for mining, testing nuclear weapons, and building reactors; the extraction of labor of Indigenous and Black bodies that more often worked in mining and/or lived near weapons testing sites; and the expansion of debt through risky lending practices to recently decolonised countries, entrapping them in long-term techno-economic dependence on governments, banks, and businesses located in the Global North, particularly but not only in the United States. The outcome was a complex extractivist web of inequalities that is intrinsically linked to our current economic and environmental crises.

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    India’s nuclear program is often misunderstood as an inward-looking endeavor of secretive technocrats. In Ploughshares and Swords, Jayita Sarkar challenges this received wisdom, narrating a global story of India’s nuclear program during its first forty years. The book foregrounds the program’s civilian and military features by probing its close relationship with the space program. Through nuclear and space technologies, India’s leaders served the technopolitical aims of economic modernity and the geopolitical goals of deterring adversaries.


    The politically savvy, transnationally-connected scientists and engineers who steered the program obtained technologies, materials, and information through a variety of state and nonstate actors from Europe and North America, including both superpowers. They thus maneuvered around Cold War politics and the chokepoints of the nonproliferation regime. Hyperdiversification increased choices for the leaders of the nuclear program but reduced democratic accountability at home. The nuclear program became a consensus-enforcing device in the name of the nation.


    Ploughshares and Swords is a provocative new history with global implications. It shows how geopolitical and technopolitical visions influence decisions about the nation after decolonization.


    Book Cover Art: Galen Passen
  • Teaching

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    August 2024—present


    July 2022–July 2024

    School of Social and Political Sciences

    University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK

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    July 2017–June 2022

    Pardee School of Global Studies
    Boston University, Massachusetts, USA