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Mita Choudhury

Mita Choudhury

NIAS Fellow

Project title

The Wayward Saint and the Repentant Historian

Research question

Focusing on early Modern France, Mita Choudhury asks how we can write a victim-centered history of clerical sexual violence that brings out forgotten voices and holds us accountable as practitioners of history.

Project description

This project is a reconsideration of sexual violence in the early modern French Church, focusing on those who have been rendered invisible by the reluctance of historical actors and historians to acknowledge the violence.

Mita Choudhury examines historical victims found in multiple archives throughout France. She combines metahistory with microhistory: an analysis that foregrounds victims, examines structures – microhistory – and constantly questions the place of historians within this history – metahistory. The fusion of these two methodological approaches strives for transparency and accountability, which are urgently needed in our world today.

The subject of sexual violence raises questions on what we consider history, who we consider credible when conducting research in archives, and the professional legitimacy of the historian. Her project will necessarily re-examine her previous work in which she ignored sexual violence. Choudhury strives for direct engagement between reader and historian, seeking to disrupt a hierarchical dynamic embedded in knowledge and objectivity.

Selected publications

  • Mita Choudhury and Daniel J. Watkins, ed., Belief and Politics in Enlightenment France: Essays in Honor of Dale K. Van Kley, in Oxford Studies in the Enlightenment (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019).
  • The Wanton Jesuit and the Wayward Saint: A Tale of Sex, Religion, and Politics in Eighteenth-Century France (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2015).
  • Convents and Nuns in Eighteenth-Century French Politics and Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University, 2004).