Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences, Colonizations and CGSG (2022-24)
PhD '22 (South Asian history), University of Chicago


Research Interests

Nineteenth- and twentieth-century South Asian history; British Empire in Asia; colonial violence and legacy; law and gender; migration and mobility; everyday life and history from below.


Prostitution and Everyday Life in Colonial India, 1860-1940


Zoya Sameen works on everyday histories of gender, law, and resistance in colonial India. Her dissertation writes the history of prostitution in India from the ground up by putting evasion, dissent, and disruption in the lead of understanding social and legal interventions into sexual commerce from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. It argues that law enforcement in relation to prostitution should be read in terms of a series of failures, and historicizes how groups of laboring women, prostitutes, brothel workers, policemen, pimps, and soldiers, among others, acquired knowledge of laws and strategized a means to thwart their impact through daily acts such as movement, concealment, impersonation, and bribery. Pushing against a historiography broadly centered on the study of colonial governmentality, her dissertation reads ordinary agents and their activities back into the history of prostitution by reconfiguring it as an everyday ‘practice’ that negotiated the state from below.

She has served as a BA preceptor in the Department of History, and taught a self-designed course “Prostitution in Global Perspective” in Spring 2020. She has also participated in the department’s Public History Practicum and was part of a graduate student team that worked with the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project. She completed her MA in Social Sciences at the University of Chicago and holds a BA in History from SOAS, University of London.


—Awarded 2021 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship
—Course spotlight on "Prostitution in Global Perspective"