He completed a B.A. (Hons.) in Political Science at Presidency College of the University of Calcutta and a Ph.D. at the University of Rochester.
He is honorary professor of Political Science and was the Director of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta and is currently a Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies at Columbia University in New York. He was a Founder-Member of the Subaltern Studies Collective. He is a Joint-editor of Baromash, a biannual Bengali literary journal published from Calcutta. In addition to numerous books in English, he has published books of essays in Bengali.
Chatterjee has been criticized by several Dalit scholars in India and overseas for ignoring the caste question and eliding it under the subaltern category.
He is also a well-known playwright and actor on the Calcutta stage. He appeared in a cameo role in the 2007 Mira Nair film, The Namesake, based upon the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. He is credited as a 'Reformed Hindu' in the film.
1986. Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World. London: Zed Books.
1993. The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories". Princeton University Press.
1995. Texts of Power. Minneapolis University of Minnesota Press.
1997. A Possible India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
1997. The Present History of West Bengal. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
2003. A Princely Impostor? The Strange and Universal History of the Kumar of Bhawal. Princeton University Press.
2004. The Politics of the Governed: Popular Politics in Most of the World, Columbia University Press.
2010. Empire and Nation: Selected Essays 1985-2005, Columbia University Press.
2011. Lineages of Political Society: Studies in Postcolonial Democracy, Columbia University Press
2012. The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power, Princeton University Press.