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Yorim Spoelder

Yorim Spoelder


Global History

Research Associate and Lecturer (Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter)

South and Southeast Asian History, European History, Colonial History, History of Knowledge, Critical Heritage Studies, Urban History.


Yorim Spoelder is a postdoctoral research fellow affiliated with the Einstein Professorship in Global History at Freie Universität Berlin. He previously held various DFG and SNSF-funded fellowships at Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Free University Berlin and IHEID Geneva, was a guest scholar at EHESS Paris, and affiliated as a researcher with the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. He holds degrees from Free University Berlin (Doctorate), University of Cape Town (MA), University College Maastricht (BA), and received part of his academic training at National Taiwan University and JNU New Delhi. As of autumn 2021, Spoelder contributes regularly to the Asian Review of Books.

Spoelder will be on leave until autumn 2024. He is currently a visiting postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies (UCL) and the German Historical Institute in London (October 2023–March 2024) and he will take up a Lee Kong Chian Research Fellowship at the National Library Singapore (April 2024–October 2024).

Spoelder’s research focuses on the modern connected histories of Europe, South and Southeast Asia and is characterized by an interdisciplinary and global approach. His main interests include imperial history, the history of knowledge, urban history, critical heritage studies and international affairs. His forthcoming book Visions of Greater India: Transimperial Knowledge and Anticolonial Nationalism, ca. 1800-1960 (Cambridge University Press) was longlisted for the ICAS “Best Dissertation in the Humanities Prize 2021”. Conceived as the first comprehensive study of the Greater India imagination, the book sheds new light on how Orientalist knowledge production along the Silk Roads and across the Dutch and French spheres in Southeast Asia energized anti-colonial nationalism and Asianist visions in British India. The book zooms in on the politics and implications of the interwar reframing of India as Asia’s ancient cultural and civilizational fount and shows its lasting impact on the ‘idea of India’, the study of ‘Indianized’ cultural heritage across the wider Asian sphere, and Indian foreign policy soft power repertoires from Nehru to Modi.


Spoelder currently works, in dialogue with Michael Goebel’s SNFS-funded Patchwork Cities project, on a comparative study of colonial cosmopolitanisms in Asian metropolises across the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French and British imperial spheres. The project zooms in on the changing predicament of Eurasian communities and, more generally, investigates the transformation of colonial urban culture and dynamics of interracial sociality in key hubs such as Calcutta, Madras, Goa, Colombo, Singapore, Hanoi, Batavia, Manila and Macao throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Approaching the “Eurasian Question” from both an intellectual and urban history angle, the project probes how the general trend from creolization along a trajectory reminiscent of the Spanish Americas to discourses and practices promoting cultural and racial apartheid played out in colonial city environments across Asia. This study also pays careful attention to the role of travel writing and colonial comparisons in steering debates about hybrid ‘mestizo ways’ in different contexts.


  •  “An ‘Indian Hermes’ between Paris and the Pacific: Kalidas Nag, Greater India, and the Quest for a Global Humanism”, in Elisabeth Leake & Bérénice Guyot-Réchard (eds.), South Asia Unbound: New International Histories of the Subcontinent. Leiden University Press, 2023, pp. 167-186.

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