Dr Joanna Simonow

Postdoc Research Fellow

Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research
Schifferstraße 44
47059 Duisburg

Phone: +49 (0)203 379-5230
Fax: +49 (0)203 379-5276
E-Mail: simonow@gcr21.uni-due.de


Dr Joanna Simonow joined the research group 'Pathways and Mechanisms of Global Cooperation' in March 2020 and will be a Postdoc Research Fellow at the Centre until February 2021.


Research Project

The Private in the Political. Intimacy as a Pathway of Global Cooperation: Feminism, Anti-Imperialism and Indian Nationalism in Europe, North America and South Africa, c. 1900s-1960s

The research project sets out to provide a feminist historical inquiry into the role of (interracial) love and sexual intimacy as pathways of global cooperation of social and political movements in the first six decades of the twentieth century. During this period, first-wave feminists, anti-imperialists and Indian nationalists interacted in new ‘radical’ political spaces that emerged primarily due to a flourishing of diasporic anti-colonialism in metropolitan societies. This interaction was not only political, it was also personal in nature. A group of European, North American and South African women met Indian nationalists in the politicized spaces of party meetings and lecture halls, in which a common—though not an identical—critique of race, class, empire and patriarchy created affection and nourished intimacy (Leela Gandhi, 2006). These women began to contribute to the diasporic Indian nationalist movement as lovers, spouses, friends and allies, thereby linking a set of social and political movements that are usually perceived of as having emerged in mutual isolation. In exploring the work and writings of a set of women activists, the project wishes to bring a micro-historical approach to the study of the global ideological, material and intimate entanglements of first-wave feminism, anti-imperialism and Indian (diasporic) nationalism. At the same time, the convergence of the political and the private, as accounted in the women’s biographies, allow the project to scrutinize the potential of private and personal interactions in quotidian and intimate spaces to foster global political collaboration. The project will use this particular perspective to unsettle dichotomies that are commonly applied to analyse political cooperation, including the local/global and the private/political.

Research Interests

  • Women's, Gender and Feminist History
  • Anti-Colonialism and Anti-Imperialism
  • South Asian, Global and Transnational History
  • Food Aid and Famine Relief
  • Humanitarian Movements and their histories


04/2016 – 12/2019

ETH Zurich

History Department, Chair for History of the Modern World

PhD Candidate

05/2015 – 09/2019

ETH Zurich

History Department, Chair for History of the Modern World

Research Assistant

04/2014 – 07/2014

Overseas Development Institute

Humanitarian Policy Group


08/2013 – 12/2013

Overseas Development Institute

Humanitarian Policy Group


09/2012 – 12/2013

Universities of Groningen and Uppsala

Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA)

Master student, International Relations: International Humanitarian Action

03/2011 – 06/2011

Centre for Social Research, Delhi

Gender Training Institute


03/2006 – 01/2011

University of Heidelberg

South Asia Institute (SAI)Magister student, History of South Asia & Political Science of South Asia

Selected Publications

Joanna Simonow, 'Famine Relief in Colonial India in Regional and Global Perspective', in: Fischer-Tiné, Harald and Maria Framke (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of the History of Colonialism in South Asia (forthcoming 2020).

Joanna Simonow, 'Der Hungertod in Bildern: Fotografien in der öffentlichen Debatte um Hungersnothilfe für Bengalen 1943', Zeithistorische Forschungen, Wieters, Heike and Tatjana Tönsmeyer (eds.), Welt - Hunger - Hilfe: Konzepte und Lernprozesse internationaler Versorgung, Hungerhilfe und -prävention im 20. Jahrhundert (under review).

Joanna Simonow, ‘The Great Bengal Famine in Britain: Metropolitan Campaigning for Food Relief and the End of Empire, 1943–44’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 48, no. 1 (2020): 168–97, doi.org/10.1080/03086534.2019.1638622

Review article: Joanna Simonow, 'Benjamin Siegel, Hungry Nation. Food, Famine, and the Making of Modern India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2018', in: H-Soz-Kult 24.08.2018, www.hsozkult.de/publicationreview/id/rezbuecher-29352

Joanna Simonow, ‘Bengal, 1943-44: Famine Relief in Times of War’, Online Atlas on the History of Humanitarianism and Human Rights. IEG Mainz (2017), wiki.ieg-mainz.de/ghra/articles/simonow-bengal.

Conference proceedings: Joanna Simonow, ‘Tagungsbericht HistorikerTag 2016: Religiöser Humanitarismus im Zeitalter des Säkularismus: Hilfe für Kriegsgefangene und zivile Opfer von Konflikten nach 1945’, in: H-Soz-Kult 19.11.2016, www.hsozkult.de/conferencereport/id/tagungsberichte-6843.

Review article: Joanna Simonow, 'Saurabh Mishra, Beastly Encounters of the Raj: Livelihoods, Livestock and Veterinary Health in North India, 1790-1920 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015)', in: Medical History, 60(2), April 2016, 272.

Joanna Simonow, ‘Understanding Humanitarian Action in South Asia. Responses to Famine and Displacement in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century India’, HPG Working Papers, Overseas Development Institute, London (2015), www.odi.org/publications/9529-india-pakistan-bangladesh-famine-british-colonial-displacement-partition.