below are links to my published books:

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Autobiography of an Archive: A Scholar's Passage to India

In this collection of essays and lectures, Dirks recounts his early study of kingship in India, the rise of the caste system, the emergence of English imperial interest in controlling markets and India's political regimes, and the development of a crisis in sovereignty that led to an extraordinary nationalist struggle.


“Nicholas B. Dirks has taken to heart the disciplinary alliance between Anthropology and History… In these essays he artfully pursues it himself via an autobiographical unfolding of his own archival path of discovery as a scholar of India. The essays will be greatly admired not only for their knowledgeable, distinctive, and acute grasp of the difficult and well-mined phenomena of kingship and caste and colonialism but also for the sustained and detailed angle of sympathy and regard they present on those oppressed by that phenomena.”—Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy and Member of the Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University

Autobiography of an Archive is a compelling synthesis of his extraordinary career as a scholar, teacher, and institution builder. Nicholas B. Dirks's account of the interconnections between anthropology and history and his commitment to the internationalization of liberal learning make his book a vital contribution to contemporary discussions of globalization and education.”—Michael S. Roth, President, Wesleyan University

“Using the conceit of an autobiography, this book dazzles with luminous reflections on the archive of knowledge on India. As a leading scholar of India in the American academy, Nicholas B. Dirks offers original insights on the history and politics of scholarship, on empire and its entailment in the production of knowledge, and on the career of history and anthropology as disciplines. Autobiography of an Archive showcases Dirks at his best as a scholar and cultural critic.” —Gyan Prakash, Dayton-Stockton Professor of History, Princeton University

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The Scandal of Empire

A fascinating and devastating account of the East India Company scandal that laid the foundation of the British Empire.  Dirks explains how the substitution of imperial authority for Company rule helped erase the dirty origins of empire and justify the British presence in India.  The Scandal of Empire reveals how the conquests and exploitations of the Company were critical to England’s development in the eighteenth century and beyond, and how the empire projected its own scandalous behavior onto India itself.


“[T]his lucid and masterful interpretive essay serves as a timely reminder that modern empires, caught in ideological contradictions of their own making, are fundamentally unpleasant, oppressive, and immoral formations. A stimulating contribution to contemporary debates.”—Dipesh Chakrabarty, Distinguished Service Professor of History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College, The University of Chicago

“This is a brilliant work of historical excavation that exposes the foundation of modern Britain in the scandals of empire. Dirks shows that, contrary to the imperialist ideologues then as now, the scandals of conquest, violence, and oppression were at its center, not its incidental sideshow.”—Gyan Prakash, Dayton-Stockton Professor of History, Princeton University

“In this timely and important intervention on empires--both past and present--Nicholas Dirks makes a compelling critique of Britain's imperial relation to India. Scandal, conquest, and empire, he argues, were central to the making of modern Britain. This is a seminal contribution to current debates on empires--their rise, decline and fall.”—Catherine Hall, Chair Emerita of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership, University College London

“Dirks's own extensive research and writing as a historian of India provide him with a perspective that enriches his rereading of the Empire's origins in scandal and elucidates them for scholars and lay readers alike.”—Michael Fisher, Historian

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Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India

When thinking of India, it is hard not to think of caste. In academic and common parlance alike, caste has become a central symbol for India, marking it as fundamentally different from other places while expressing its essence. Dirks argues that caste is, in fact, neither an unchanged survival of ancient India nor a single system that reflects a core cultural value. Rather than a basic expression of Indian tradition, caste is a modern phenomenon—the product of a concrete historical encounter between India and British colonial rule.


"Massively documented and brilliantly argued, Castes of Mind is a study in true contrapuntal interpretation. Nicholas Dirks is a subtle unraveler of the dense, many-layered fabric of India's colonial and modern history as they converge in the idea and practice of caste. Even for the nonspecialist, the results of this gripping book are remarkable to behold. No one before Dirks has examined the ways in which caste gathers from as well as ignores the complex realities and hierarchies of Indian society. Neither reductive nor schematic, the notion of caste that emerges here is genuinely original."—Edward W. Said, University Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University in the City of New York, and author of Orientalism

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At a moment when culture's traditional caretakers -- humanism, philosophy, anthropology, and the nation-state -- are undergoing crisis and mutation, this volume charts the tensions and contradictions in the development and deployment of the concept of culture. A genuinely interdisciplinary venture, In Near Ruins, under the editorship of Nicholas B. Dirks, brings together respected writers from the fields of history, anthropology, literary criticism, and communications. Together their essays present an intriguing picture of "culture" at the edges of humanism, of the politics of critical inquiry amid current social transformations, and of the status and practice of historical knowledge in an age of theory.


“This book is a stunning, masterful, much-needed collection of essays from anthropology and literary criticism which carefully articulates and powerfully performs a mode of cultural critique that is at once historical materialist and fundamentally engaged with the potential ‘liveness,’ magic, ‘enjoyment,’ and unspeakable violence of cultural-political acts.”—Kathleen Stewart, University of Texas, Austin

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This important volume of essays draws from leading scholarship by historians, anthropologists, and cultural critics to demonstrate the cultural significance of colonial rule, from South and Southeast Asia to the Middle East and Latin America.  Introduced by the powerful framing argument of the editor, Nicholas Dirks, the book explores the multifaceted nature and effects of colonialism in the large domain of culture, demonstrating the extent to which colonialism was a cultural as much as it was a political and economic project of rule.  Ranging from the literature of exploration and discovery, the inquisition, parliamentary inquiries into colonial brutality, the law, colonial exhibitions, regulations about the intermixing of races, and contemporary historiography, this book has had extraordinary influence over scholarship in colonial studies for many years.


"Dirks has adroitly edited a volume of the best articles by anthropologists (those who inquisit culture) and historians (those who examine our colonial past). . . ."—Anthropos

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A pioneering piece of ethnohistory, The Hollow Crown uses a variety of interdisciplinary means to reconstruct the sociocultural history of a warrior polity in south India between the fourteenth and the twentieth centuries. In reconstructing the history of the polity that eventually became the colonial princely state of Pudukkottai, Dirks therefore raises a series of issues concerning the methodologies of history and anthropology, the character of Tamil kingship and social organization, the relationship between politics and ritual, the impact of colonialism and 'modernization', and the dynamics of the whole last millennium of south Indian history.


Now and then a work of scholarship appears which forces one to take a hard look at the way things are perceived in our discipline.  Such a book might break new ground, taking us into hitherto uncharted regions of Indian society; or it might with penetrating insights, reopen stale debates about the 'big' issues of structure and process; or it might, yet again, challenge existing modes of enquiry.  Rarely, however, does one come across a book which does all three.  Nicholas Dirks' The Hollow Crown belongs in that exceptional category.”—Ian Copland, Journal South Asia

"No book reveals the vast terrain of scholarship that opens out from intersections of history, anthropology, and critical theory better than this one."—Journal of Interdisciplinary History