Subarna De

an environmental social scientist
exploring social, cultural and
environmental transformations 


I am an environmental social scientist working on indigeneity and bioregionalism. I explore place-based environmental and socio-cultural issues through teaching, consulting, research, writing, and creative arts. Currently, I am associated with the Chair Group Contemporary History at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands and am the Book Reviews Editor of the journal Plant Perspectives, an interdisciplinary journal for plant studies published by The White Horse Press, UK. I am also the curator and coordinator of the environmental discourses virtual lecture series of the prestigious SEPHIS Programme, the South-South Exchange Programme for the Research on the History of Development. I hold a second appointment (advisory role in environmental consulting) as a Social Scientist in the Department of Environmental Studies and Research at Ideate Design Studio (New Delhi & Muscat) where I implement bioregional knowledge from research to practice. As a social scientist in an architecture and conservation practice organisation, I apply bioregionalism empirically to field-based environmental, architectural and conservation practices and draft reports for the National Heritage Division of India. I also volunteer as an environmental researcher for the Environment Society of Oman.

I have a formal training as an environmental humanities scholar. I earned a PhD in English Studies from the Central University of Tamil Nadu, India, funded by the Central University Doctoral Fellowship (India), and supported with Collaborative Research grants from Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. My doctoral thesis focuses on the environmental discourses and ecological practices of Kodagu coffee plantations in India. Before joining the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, I was a Carson Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, München, and received the CAIS Fellowship from IBB University, Nigeria. In addition, my research on Indian bioregionalism has received support from the University Grants Commission, India; KTH-Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden; University of Oslo, Norway; Rijksuniversiteit Groningen; The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE), Modern Language Association (MLA) among others. Before joining the Carson Center at LMU, I taught introductory courses such as Green Studies (I&II) with a focus on pre-modern Indian society and culture, environmental humanities from the global south, bioregionalism, survey courses on Indian English Literature, British Literature, The Making of Modern South Asia, core courses on Academic Reading & Writing (Advanced, EAP & TESOL), Research Methodology, and advanced courses on Plantation Literature from the Global South, Environmental History of South Asia and Literature, Culture, Environment as Assistant Professor of English at Mazoon College (co-operated by Purdue University, Northwest, USA) in Muscat, Oman and Madras Christian College (affiliated with Madras University, India), Chennai, India. In addition, I earned a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Professional Certificate from Arizona State University in the US.

I research the transformations of the environment and society, focusing on bioregionalism and indigeneity. My research is situated at the interface of cultural anthropology, human geography, environmental history, literature, and environmental humanities scholarship. I combine interdisciplinary approaches from indigenous studies, postcolonial studies, heritage studies, food studies, plant humanities and environmental studies. In my current project, I am focusing on postcolonial environmental discourses of indigenous communities from India and  the Global South. I use mixed methods, including archival research, fieldwork, interviews, photography, literary texts, oral history, and qualitative ethnographic data for bioregional analysis. I advanced the concept of “decolonial reinhabitation” in “The Return of Nature” (2023) and “bioregional eating” in “The Taste of Place” (2022). My bioregional scholarship and commitment to non-academic organisations encourage participatory environmental humanities research and practice. I employ ethnographic methods and community engagement to work on public environmental humanities projects. As part of public environmental humanities and research-to-practice commitments, I value collaborative work with both academic and non-academic partners and disseminate my research widely in various other media formats and peer-reviewed publications. Beyond academia and practice, I write short stories, paint, and make photographs. My photography documents landscapes, communities and cultures and has been exhibited internationally.