Du Fei

Graduate Student


Du Fei is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Cornell University. His dissertation 'Local Women, Global Histories?: Gendering Islam, Law, and Economic Life in Transregional India' studies Muslim women’s participation in the local and transregional economic exchanges of the Persianate and Indian Ocean worlds that converged in India during the region’s transition from Mughal to British colonial rule in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Piecing together a wide array of archives in Persian, Arabic, Urdu, English, and Dutch, this dissertation argues that elite Muslim women as well as their servants and slaves from merchant and landholding families played constitutive roles in sustaining an economy of mobility that is often seen as dominated by men. Muslim women’s negotiation with male kins, jurists, judges, and officials in seemingly mundane areas of Islamic law, especially inheritance, estate management, and labor thus defies any easy conceptions of the ‘Islamic patriarchy’. Situated at the intersection of history, gender and sexuality studies, and Islamic studies, this dissertation challenges existing gender-blind narratives of how trade and travel contributed to the making of global Islam. More broadly, Fei's research interests include post-classical Islamic law, the history of capitalism, transnational feminism, digitization, and community archives.

Research Focus

  • Gender & sexuality
  • Islamic law
  • History of economic life
  • The Indian Ocean and Persianate worlds
  • Digital Humanities


“Fatima’s Inheritance: Law, Islam, and Gendered Archive-Making in India’s Early Modern Global Connections.” Past & Present, forthcoming.

“Know Your Rights: The (Un)Making of the Colonial Legal Subject in Rural North India, circa 1770-1857.” Modern Asian Studies 56, no. 1 (2022): 65-95.

Jiang, Jingkui, and Du Fei. “On Hindi Manuscripts in Nineteenth-Century North India.” Asian and African Studies, no. 2 (2017). (In Chinese)

HIST Courses - Spring 2024