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Tirthankar Chakraborty

IMG_0465 (002)

Social and Cultural Anthropology

Anthropology of Emotions

Doctoral Candidate (Prof. Dr. Anita von Poser)

Research - ‘Pedagogy of Fear’: An Ethnohistorical study of the institutionalisation of fear to create a subservient citizenry.



MA Development, Environment, Societies and History of South Asia 

South Asia Institute, Universität Heidelberg

Majors - Anthropology (specialisation), Political Science

Thesis - Travelling in the Cosmos: Exploring Rurban Sensibility amongst the Rural Cosmopolitans of Hyderabad, India.



MA English

University of Hyderabad

Grade - First Class with Distinction



BA (Hons) English, History (minor), Political Science (minor)

RKMRC(A), Narendrapur, University of Calcutta

Grade - First Class Honours.


Academic positions

02/2018 - 09/2018    Research Assistant, The University of Chicago

08/2017 - 01/2018    Research Intern, Hyderabad Urban Labs

09/2016 - 07/2017    Associate-Teacher Educator, Azim Premji Foundation

12/2015 - 06/2016    Research Assistant, School of Economics - University of Hyderabad

05/2015 - 07/2015    Summer Fellow, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras


Grants and Awards

- Tuition waiver grant for exceptional international students, Universität Heidelberg EUR 6000

- Hardship Grant, Universität Heidelberg   EUR 2322

Research Title:

‘Pedagogy of Fear’: An Ethnohistorical study of the institutionalisation of fear to create a subservient citizenry. (Supervisor - Prof. Dr. Anita von Poser)

Research Interest:

Political and Social Anthropology, State and violence, Trauma and memory, Political Affect, Historical Institutionalism, South Asia, Intra-regional migration, Politics of public spaces.


Short Description:

In my doctoral dissertation, I examine how a democratic state used fear to create a subservient sensibility in the citizens, not as a by-product but as a direct method/tool of governing by shaping behaviour. Through an ethnohistorical method of intensive fieldwork and archival research, this project will explore the practices of arousing fear in the citizenry, how this fear was experienced, and how it shaped the everyday lives of those who were targetted, the university-going student population in Calcutta during the 1960s and 70s - the Naxalite revolution. I argue it to be the point of departure as massive surveillance, the crackdown on dissent, and governance through fear were routinized in the Indian polity. Using the analytical framework of political affect, this study will theorise the institutionalisation of fear in the mind, body and habits of ordinary and extra-ordinary members of the student population during a revolutionary movement. This refers to the politics of memory, affective behaviours, change-in-sensibility and ideas, and how individuals and societies 'fall in line' to not be an outlier in the states' perspective. The routinization of governing by fear and the ‘culture of silence’ (Freire 2000) instilled by the democratic state has not been explored, especially in the context of South Asia, and particularly, India. Unlike the studies which have focussed on the threats as subjects to be feared, this study wants to focus on the institutionalisation of fear amongst the subjects who are deemed as threats - which also has hitherto not been studied.


  • Chakraborty, Tirthankar. 2021. “Student Protests and Repression in India: On Trauma, Embodied Violence and Practices of (De-)Silencing”, 7-10. GAMSzine (2), Humboldt University
  • Chakraborty, Tirthankar. 2021. ‘Commentary on Gender Inequality and Religious Personal Laws’, EnGender! 3(4): 19-21. 
  • Chakraborty, Tirthankar and Alicka Machurich. 2020. "Report on the prevalence of and awareness about sexual harassment on Heidelberg University Campus." Published on the Heidelberg University website and can be seen here.


Paper Presentations:

  • “Silencing and De-Silencing of Trauma: An Autoethnographic Analysis” at the  13th Annual Graduate Student Conference  ‘Anthropology in Transit’ - Palimpsest in Practice, organised by the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine. April 9-11, 2021
  • “Reading Trauma, Silence and Expression in the Memoryscapes – An Auto-ethnographic Analysis.” At the 4th International Interdisciplinary Conference on "Memory, Forgetting and Creating", Jan 14-15 2021.
  • “Constitutional Analysis of India and Pakistan” in DGA workshop sub-group – Institutionalism, held at Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Jan 31 - Feb 2, 2020.
  • “Travelling Sensibilities: Breaking the rural-urban border one migration at a time” in South Asia Institute Student Conference, July 16, 2019.
Berlin Southern Theory Lecture