CECI n'est pas EXECUTE Vanessa Caru

Vanessa Caru

Research Fellow
Institutional affiliation(s): CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research)

Professional contact information




A former student of the ENS-Lyon and agrégée in history, Vanessa Caru obtained her Ph.D. in December 2010, with a dissertation entitled “Le logement des travailleurs et la question sociale, Bombay (1850-1950).” In this analysis, she confutes an approach that had dominated the urban history of the colonial world for quite some time, and according to which colonial urbanism was a process imposed from above by a colonial power presented as a homogeneous force. Her work thus demonstrated the extent to which the colonial government was permeable to social unrest, which it tried to constrain through building projects aimed at providing lodgings for the industrial work force. The intervention of the authorities in this domain fostered the emergence of new demands and new modes of organization, with the creation of working-class tenants unions. The aim of the study of such activism, and in particular of the role played by the unions, workers’ parties and “untouchable” movements, is to fill in the analysis of the forms and processes through which workers become politicized, an analysis which had previously been limited to the sphere of work.

She is currently researching the social history of Indian staff of the Public Works Department under the Bombay presidency, from 1875 to 1950. In particular, she is interested in the—permitted or prohibited—social mobility opened up by the emergence of this new profession.

She coordinated the ENGIND project (“Engineers and Society in Colonial and Post-Colonial India”), which was funded by the “programme blanc” of the ANR (Agence nationale de la recherche — French National Research Agency): http://engind.hypotheses.org/, and which came to term in June 2017.

In addition, she is involved in the STARS project (Studies in Tamil  Studio Archives and Society, http://www.ifpindia.org/content/studies-tamil-studio-archives-and-society-stars).


Research groups


Coordinator of the ENGIND–Engineers and Society in Colonial and Post-Colonial India program

Member of the “Politiques socio-économiques et restructurations territoriales” team



Key words


Indian 19th- and 20th-century history
Urban history (India)
Social history (India)
History of working-class activism (India)
Trades history





Des toits sur la grève. Le logement des travailleurs et la question sociale, Bombay (1850-1950), Paris, Armand-Colin, 2013, 432p.


Book Chapters

Entries on “Dharma Kumar,” “Tanika Sarkar” and “Lotika Varadarajan,” in Didier B., Foulque A. and Calle-Gruber M. (eds.), Le Dictionnaire des créatrices, Paris, Éditions des Femmes, 2013.

Surun I. (ed.), Les sociétés coloniales à l’âge des empires (1850-1950), Paris, Atlande, 2012

“D’apparentes coïncidences. Bombay, les expériences métropolitaines et la question du logement des travailleurs, 1896-1926,” in Enders A. and Bensimon F. (eds.), Le Siècle britannique. Variations sur une domination globale, Presses Universitaires de Paris Sorbonne, Paris, 2012, p. 87-112.

“The Making of a Working-Class Area, The Worli BDD Chawls (1922-1947),” in Adarkar N. (ed.), Galleries of Life: The Chawls of Bombay, Imprint one, Gurgaon, 2011, p. 26-36.



Introduction to the translation of the text by  Ranajit Guha, "Quelques questions concernant l’historiographie de l’Inde coloniale," Tracés. Revue de Sciences humaines [Online], 30 | 2016, retrieved 15 April 2016. URL : http:// traces.revues.org/6478 ; DOI : 10.4000/traces.6478, p. 189-193.

“Des ajustements de circonstance. L’État colonial, le mouvement nationaliste et les lois de contrôle des loyers (Bombay, 1918-1928),” in Le Mouvement Social, No. 242, March 2013, p. 81-95 [available in English under the title “Circumstantial Adjustments: The Colonial State, the Nationalist Movement, and Rent Control Legislation (Bombay, 1918-1928)” through Cairn international: http://www.cairn-int.info/article-E_LMS_242_0081--circumstantial-adjustments-the.htm]

“Où se loge le politique ? Mouvement des locataires et politisation des subalternes, Bombay (1920-1940),” in Revue d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine, Vol. 58, No. 4, 2011, p. 71-92 [available in English under the title “Where is Politics Housed? Tenants’ Movement and Subaltern Politicization: Bombay, 1920-1940” through Cairn international: http://www.cairn-int.info/article.php?ID_ARTICLE=E_RHMC_584_0071&DocId=74384&hits=15+14+13]

“Marquage urbain et reconquête sociale. Les quartiers ouvriers de Bombay et le traitement des « zones insalubres » (1893-1914),” in Diaspora, Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 2011, p. 51-61.

“Pouvoir colonial et conflictualité ouvrière. L’exemple du logement ouvrier à Bombay (années 1890-1920),” in Les Cahiers de l’histoire, No. 111, 2010, p. 51-62.

“La fabrique du logement ouvrier à Bombay : réalisations publiques et pratiques habitantes (1898-1926),” in Histoire Urbaine, No. 19, July 2007, p. 55-76.



Last update: 27 September 2017


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