I received my PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, MA from University of Texas at Austin, and BA from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. All three degrees have been in Anthropology, although I was also a French major at college. My early education took place in Bangladesh which has long been my primary research site as well as home.
I teach courses on the anthropology of natural wealth, cultures of money, modernity and media in South Asia, Subaltern Studies, and affect in late capitalism. In the future, I plan to teach about global protests and contemporary cultures of democracy. I am also designing a social theory survey course, "Theorizing the Present," that I will co-teach with a sociologist colleague.
Research and Publication
My scholarly interests include crowds and protest, postcolonial democracies, resource politics, political communication, digital media, and South Asian Islam. My regional expertise is in Muslim South Asia, specifically, Bangladesh.
My book, Possibilities of the Political: Crowds and Protest in Bangladesh is an ethnography of the reconfigurations within contemporary protest politics in South Asia. The premise of its inquiry is that the crowd is the primary bearer of political messages in the global south. Based on anthropological research on three distinct popular mobilizations in rural and urban Bangladesh, it argues that resource and democracy have become two exemplary sites of anticipatory politics in the global south. The opposition to the Phulbari coalmines that exploded in 2006, the popular challenges to a state of emergency declared in early 2007, and the digital activism around sexual harassment and vigilante violence in 2015 are its key ethnographic sites.
Chapters 1 and 2 offer a close reading of different public cultural documents in circulation during the Emergency. They include the letters in which Muhammad Yunus, the guru of micro-finance, expressed his desire to join party politics; an identification card of a Bangladeshi citizen; and a censored photograph. They bring into relief the antinomial status of technocracy and democracy, military and civilian rule, and an ideal citizen and the crowd that left a lasting impression on national politics. Chapters 3 and 4 delve into the minutiae of everyday life in Phulbari. Here, the villagers protesting open-pit coal mining were threatened, shot or killed by an armed paramilitary. The masses, in protest, burned cash, destroyed property, and attacked their neighbors. In Chapter 3, I argue that expenditure was a constitutive element of crowd politics. The value of production, as in agricultural labor and power generation informed the formal resistance to mining. Dalals or “collaborators” were the repeated targets of crowd violence and are the main topic of Chapter 4. As a social type, they invoked social anxiety and collective action that exceeded the considerations of the state or the economy. The digital activism around two cases of sexual assault and vigilante death in 2015 created public uproar and invoked curious responses from the state. In this last chapter, I consider the Internet as an evolving site of crowd politics. By studying the relationship between technology and the collectivities it makes possible, I document the expansion and retreat of the spaces of critical dissent, what I call the double bind of digital activism.
The book covers wider empirical and theoretical grounds than my doctoral dissertation. It had won the Sol Tax Dissertation Award in 2013 from the University of Chicago's Department of Anthropology. You can check out a synopsis here:
Forthcoming. “The Taka, Transparency, and an Alternative Politics of Seeing From Phulbari, Bangladesh.” In Neoliberal Development: People in the Margins. Edited by Md. Tanzimuddin Khan and Sajjadur Rahman. University Press Limited, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
2016 "Mines and Signs: Resource and Political Futures in Bangladesh." Special Issue: Environmental Futures." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Edited by Jessica Barnes. Volume 22, Issue S1.
Also available in,
2016 Environmental Futures. Edited by Jessica Barnes. Chapter 5. UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
2014 “‘Picture-Thinking’: Sovereignty and Citizenship in Bangladesh.” Anthropological Quarterly. Fall 2014 (Volume 87, Issue 4).
2014 "Muslim Women and Violent Protest: Bangladesh." Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures. General Editor Suad Joseph. Brill Online, 2014. <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-women-and-islamiccultures/muslim-women-and-violent-protest-bangladesh-COM_002008>
2002 “Understanding the Experience of Household Food Insecurity in Rural Bangladesh Leads to a Measure Different from That Used in Other Countries.” Co-authored with Edward Frongillo et al. Journal of Nutrition. 2003: 133, 4158-4162.
n.d. Possibilities of the Political: Crowds and Protest in Bangladesh. Book manuscript in preparation.
n.d. Edited volume, Generations: Emerging Thoughts on Bangladesh. With contributions by the participants of the workshop, Bangladesh: Contested Pasts, Competing Futures (Austin 2013). Co-edited with Lotte Hoek (Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Edinburgh).
Articles/Book Chapters in progress
n.d. “Paradoxes of the Popular: Despair and Democracy in Bangladesh.” Forthcoming in Special Edited Volume of EMOPOLIS - Emotions and Political Mobilizations in the Indian Subcontinent. CNRS/EHESS. Paris, France.
n.d. "'They Went Directly Into Accident': Rethinking the Accidental in Mass Politics." Under preparation for Generations: Emerging Throughs on Bangladesh. (Co-edited with Dr. Lotte Hoek).
Awards and Distinctions:
(2013) Sol Tax Dissertation Award. Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago. (2009-2010) Fellow. Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation; (2008-2009) Committee on Southern Asian Studies (COSAS) Dissertation Write-Up Fellowship. University of Chicago; (2006) (2002-2003) Fellow. AAUW (formerly known as the American Association of University Women) International Fellowship; (2003-2005) Committee on Southern Asian Studies Annual Fellowship. University of Chicago; (2002) Social Science Research Council (SSRC) Pre-dissertation Fellowship for Research and Training in Bangladesh