Rachel Berger, PhD

Associate Professor, History

Rachel Berger is Associate Professor of History and Fellow of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia. She is also Director of the INDI Graduate Program at the School of Graduate studies. 

Rachel is a historian of medicine and the body in South Asia. In the past, she has worked on the history of Ayurvedic medicine in the context of late colonial biopolitics, Hindi-language discussions of gyneacology and reproductive medicine in interwar India, and the visual culture of consumption in the subcontinent. These topics are addressed in Ayurveda Made Modern: Political Histories of Indigenous Medicine in North India, 1900-1955 (Cambridge Imperial and Postcolonial Studies Series, Palgrave MacMillan, 2013).

Her current South Asia-based research project takes up the history of food and nutrition in interwar and early post-colonial India. The SSHRC- and Wellcome- funded project focuses on the emergence of nutrition as a governable category in the 1920s through an examination of the political, social, cultural and economic nexus of food production, distribution, preparation and consumption. Set against the dual poles of interwar biopolitics and the evolution of consumption in the subcontinent, this project takes up the history of health, the evolution of governmentality, the development of popular culture and the shifting mores of Indian life in modern times.

Rachel has long-standing scholarly and activist interests in queer lives (in theory and practice), reproductive politics, and questions of power in relation to the formalization of political and activist practices. Her new work on this subject, entitled "Reproductive Politics in Queer Times", centers on evolving discourses of 'choice' in neoliberal times. This research engages ethnography, textual & cultural analysis, legal studies, and queer theory to take up questions of reproduction and coupling set against the backdrop of homonationalism and the economization of life.


B.A. Concordia; M.A. University of Toronto; MPhil PhD University of Cambridge (Clare College)


Select Publications

Ayurveda Made Modern: Political Histories of Indigenous Medicine in North India, 1900-1955. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2013.

“      "Gender, Food  and Nationalism in North India” in Culinary Nationalism in Asia,  ed. Michelle King, collectionunder contract with Bloomsbury Press, forthcoming 2019 (edited and updatedreprint of “Between Digestion and Desire:genealogies of food in nationalist North India”, Modern Asian Studies 47.05 (2013): 1622-1643.)

       “Clarified Commodities: the technopolitics of ghee inthe early twentieth century”,special issue of Technology and Cultureon South Asian Histories of Science, edited by Projit Mukharji and Prakash Kumar (in press, October 2018).

        “Indigenizing Population Control: Yashoda Devi and the construction of population politics in late colonial India” in P.Bala, (ed.), Sites of Desire: Medicine,Race, Gender and Sexuality in Colonial India and sub- Saharan Africa (Cambridge Scholars Press, in press, 2018).

"Alimentary Affairs: Historicizing food in Modern India" in Historical Compass 2018 https://doi.org/10.1111/hic3.12438

“Ayurveda” in Gita Dharampal­Frick, Rachel Dwyer, Monika Kirloskar­, Steinbach, Jahnavi Phalkey (eds.), Key Concepts in Modern Indian Studies, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015, 16-19.

“Between Digestion and Desire: genealogies of food in nationalist North India”, Modern Asian Studies, Firstview 2 (2013): 1-22.

Between the Biomoral and the Biomedical: Ayurveda’s political histories,” in Special Issue: “States of Healing: New Perspectives on the State in Histories of Medicine”, South Asian History and Culture, 4, 1 (2013): 48-64

Ayurveda and the Making of the Middle Class in North India, 1900-1948,” in Ayurveda: Modern and Global Identities, eds. D. Benner & F. Smith. (Buffalo: SUNY Press, 2008), 101-116.

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