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Nusrat S. Chowdhury

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

(On Leave 7/1/2015 - 6/30/2016)

Departmental affiliation: Anthropology and Sociology

Acdemic Training
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.

Teaching Interests

I teach courses on the anthropology of natural wealth, South Asian public culture, Subaltern Studies, cultures of money, and contemporary topics in anthropology, a course that follows the conceptual and theoretical shifts in the discipline. In the near future, I plan to teach a course on contemporary politics titled, "Crowds, Citizens, and Popular Politics" and a social theory survey course, "Theorizing the Present," co-taught with a sociologist colleague.

Research Interests
I am working on a monograph tentatively titled, Possibilities of the Political: Crowds and Protest in Bangladesh. Based largely on ethnographic fieldwork in Bangladesh in 2007-2008 and more recently in 2013, the book focuses on three political events in Bangladesh in the last decade - a state of emergency, a mass movement against coal mining, and the movement to try the war criminals of the 1971 war of independence. The popular unrest during the Emergency and the anti-mining mobilizations were violently repressed by the state. The movement that demanded capital punishment for the "collaborators" of the war was self-conscious in deploying peaceful strategies of protest despite the violence of its core demand. All three events thrived on crowd politics. The book documents the governmental and popular efforts to sanitize politics of the excess and volatility associated with crowds. I observe how liberal poitical forms are mobilized for so-called illeberal demands, such as capital punishment. My larger aim here is to account for the corporeal, or what some others have called the biopolitical pressures of popular politics. Ultimately, the book brings together the figure of the crowd, the anxieties about the collaborator, and the promises of neoliberal capital that shape Bangladesh's political culture which has significance for studying politics and protests elsewhere.

My dissertation won the Sol Tax Dissertation Award in 2013 from the University of Chicago's Department of Anthropology. You can check out a synopsis here:



2014.  “‘Picture-Thinking’: Sovereignty and Citizenship in Bangladesh.” Anthropological Quarterly. Fall 2014 (Volume 87, Issue 4). Pp. 1251-1272.

2014. "Muslim Women and Violent Protest: Bangladesh." Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures. General Editor Suad Joseph. Brill Online, 2014. Reference. BRILL demo user.

Forthcoming [2016]. "Mines and Signs: Resource and Political Futures in Bangladesh." Special Issue on "Resource Futures" in Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute.

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.

Work in progress -


n.d.   "'They Went Directly Into Accident': Rethinking the Accidental in Mass Politics." Under review.


n.d.  Edited volume on new scholarship on Bangladesh titled, Generations: Emerging Thoughts on Bangladesh. Co-edited with Lotte Hoek (University of Edinburgh).

n.d.  Possibilities of the Political: Crowds and Protest in Bangladesh.  Manuscript in preparation.

Review articles:

2014    Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in India. Akhil Gupta. Journal of Anthropological Research. Vol. 70, Fall 2014.

2013  Women Suicide Bombers: Narratives of Violence. Julie Rajan. South Asian Popular Culture. 2013

2012  In the Shadows of the State: Indigenous Politics, Environmentalism, and Insurgency in Jharkhand, India. Alpa Shah. PoLar: The Political and Legal Anthropology Review. Spring 2012 (Vol. 35, Issue 1)

Awards and Honors 
(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