Participant Bios

Speakers and Discussants (alphabetically by last name) 

Amber Abbas is Assistant Professor of History at Saint Joseph´s University. Abbas’ research focuses on the period of transition associated with the 1947 Independence and Partition of India, and its particular impact on South Asian Muslims. This research considers questions of state, nation and identity building as well as methodological questions about the role of oral history as a source for understanding the past. Abbas’ research confronts questions of meaning and its impact in people’s lives. Lately, these interests have encouraged her to expand her work to explore the South Asian Diaspora in the United States. In this work, she works closely with The South Asian American Digital Archive. In addition to dozens of oral interviews with men and women in South Asia, Abbas has consulted archives in England, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.

Andrew Amstutz recently completed his PhD in the Department of History at Cornell University. He was a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) fellow in 2014 in India and Bangladesh, as well as a research fellow with the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS.) He is currently a Mellon Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

David Boyk is an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at Northwestern University. His research interests include urban and regional history in South Asia, as well as the history of the Hindi-Urdu public sphere. He is working on a book, Urbane Provincials: Intellectuals and the Hinterland in Colonial India, which examines the city of Patna, in the north Indian region of Bihar, during the late colonial period. The book argues that Patna retained its cultural and intellectual vitality, particularly in Urdu literary culture, even as it was increasingly seen as a part of the “mofussil,” or provinces. 

Matthew A. Cook, Professor of Postcolonial and South Asian Studies at North Carolina Central University, has published extensively on the history and culture of Sindh, a part of British India and now Pakistan. In addition to several book chapters and journal articles, his authored and co-authored books include Annexation and the Unhappy Valley: The Historical Anthropology of Sindh’s Colonization (Brill, 2016), Willoughby’s Minute: Treaty of Nownahar, Fraud, and British Sindh (Oxford, 2013), Interpreting the Sindh World: Essays on Society and History (Oxford, 2010), Observing Sindh: Selected Reports by Edward Del Hoste (Oxford, 2008).

Neil DeVotta is Professor of Political Science at Wake Forest University.  His research interests include South Asian security and politics, ethnicity and nationalism, ethnic conflict resolution, and democratic transition and consolidation. He is the author of Blowback: Linguistic Nationalism, Institutional Decay, and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004).  In addition to coauthoring and editing books on Sri Lanka and India, respectively, his publications have appeared in Nations and Nationalism, Journal of Democracy, Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, Pacific Affairs, Asian Survey, Civil Wars, Journal of International Affairs, and Contemporary South Asia.  His current research examines the links between nationalist ideologies and communal violence in South Asia.

Sandria B. Freitag has long explored a range of source materials that can be used to answer new questions about non-elites in Indian society (ranging from criminality to public-space activities, including riots and processions, as well as popular visual culture), and tracing change from the British period through the 20th century. This focus on the visual history of South Asia has now expanded out to two digital projects: a relational database of narratives based on images, and a collaborative examination of the photographs of Partition.

David Gilmartin is Distinguished Professor of History at North Carolina State University, where he has taught since 1983. He is the author of Empire and Islam:  Punjab and the Making of Pakistan (1988), Civilization and Modernity: Narrating the Creation of Pakistan (2014, a collection of revised, previously published essays) and Blood and Water: The Indus River Basin in Modern History (2015).  He has co-edited several volumes, including Beyond Turk and Hindu:  Rethinking Religious Identities in Islamicate South Asia (2000, with Bruce Lawrence) and Muslim Voices (2014, with Usha Sanyal and Sandria Freitag).  His most recent research looks at the history of electoral politics and democracy in the Indian subcontinent and its relationship to changing conceptions of the “rule of law.”

Hank Kennedy, Professor of Political Science at Wake Forest University, has written about South Asian political and governmental systems since 1975 and has conducted extensive field research in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India. He served as the Director of the American Institute of Pakistan Studies from 1988-2001; and was the institute’s Secretary from 1982-1988. He has written or edited numerous books and other scholarly publications, which deal with South Asia. His most recent publications include: Government and Politics in South Asia (Westview Press, 2009), Pakistan: 2005 (Oxford University Press, 2006), and Pakistan at the Millennium (Oxford University Press, 2003). Kennedy also has a long-standing teaching and professional interest in the issues of political Islam, and in US foreign policy with respect to the Middle East and South Asia especially pertaining to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and Iraq.  His current research interests focus on: military regimes and constitutionalism in Pakistan and Bangladesh and Pakistani domestic politics. He has served as the Coordinator of WFU’s Middle East and South Asia Interdisciplinary Program since its founding in 2005.

Razak Khan is a Research Fellow in the ‘Modern India in German Archives’ project at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS) Göttingen University. His research interests include princely states in colonial India, Urdu literature, vernacular public cultures and comparative minority intellectual history in India and Germany. His current research project is titled “Minor Cosmopolitanism: Education, Translation and Islam in the life and writings of Syed Abid Husain (1896-1978)” and examines the entangled history of Muslim and German-Jewish intellectualism. He has edited a special issue of the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (58:5, 2015) and has published blog posts and commentaries in the TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research and Economic and Political Weekly. He is completing a book project Minority Pasts: Locality, Histories, and Identities in Rampur for Oxford University Press.

Bruce B. Lawrence, Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor Emeritus of Religion at Duke University, has been working on Islam in the Indian subcontinent and Islam and Muslims in general for over forty years. Much of his South Asia-centered scholarship relates to various aspects of Sufism but also concerns events, persons, and places that reflect the deep history of Islam in South Asia. His earliest books include Shahrastani on the Indian Religions (1976), Notes from a Distant Flute (1978), The Rose and the Rock (1979) and Ibn Khaldun and Islamic Ideology (1984). Most recently, he has published The Koran in English: A Biography (2017) and Who is Allah? (2015).  

Ali Altaf Mian is assistant professor of Islamic studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Seattle University. He completed his Ph.D. in religious studies in 2015 from Duke University. His research interests include: Islam in South Asia; Islamic law and ethics; gender and sexuality; feminist theory and practice; Sufism and comparative mysticism; continental philosophy; comparative religion; theory and method in the study of religion. Currently, he is working on two manuscripts: Muslims in South Asia (contracted with Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming in 2019) and Surviving Modernity: Ashraf ‘Ali Thanvi (1863-1943) and the Politics of Muslim Orthodoxy in Colonial India. His publications have appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as Islamic Studies, Muslim World, and Journal of Shi‘a Islamic Studies.

Afsar Mohammad is Lecturer of Foreign Languages at the South Asia Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania. Before relocating to Penn, he has taught at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Texas at Austin for more than a decade. His courses on South Asia and the Novel, Indian Poetry and Religions, Resistance literatures of South Asia, Islamic cultures and literatures of South Asia usually blend various sources of Urdu, Hindi and Telugu languages. Recently, Afsar has expanded his research and teaching to new areas such as urban practices of Islam and Sufism in South India. He is the author of The Festival of Pirs: Popular Islam and Shared Devotion in South India (Oxford, 2013) and has published more than a dozen essays in various scholarly journals and edited volumes published in the USA and Europe.

M. Raisur Rahman, Associate Professor of History at Wake Forest University, is interested in local, urban, and literary histories of modern India and South Asian Islam. Prior to joining Wake Forest faculty in 2008, he earned a Ph.D. in History from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.Phil. and M.A. in History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His first book, Locale, Everyday Islam, and Modernity: Qasbah Towns and Muslim Life in Colonial India (Oxford University Press, 2015) explored why the unique small towns of qasbahs in India – and by extension locales – remain major identity-markers and what make qasbahs continue to evoke memory and nostalgia. Currently, Rahman is working on a social history of Bombay, in particular its cosmopolitan nature and the role certain specific Muslim communities played in its social make-up. 

Nathan Tabor is Assistant Professor, Department of History, Western Michigan University. Tabor focuses on historical forms of sociability and literary societies in early modern South Asia and Iran. Currently, he is finishing up a manuscript on the poetry salon in late Mughal India based on nearly four years of research in North India funded by Wenner-Gren and Fulbright awards. Prior to coming to WMU, he has taught at The University of Texas at Austin and served as an instructor and the academic director for UT’s Hindi-Urdu Flagship Program during the year abroad in Lucknow, India. 

Sufia Uddin is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Connecticut College. Her research interests focus on constructions of Bengali-Muslim religious community from the colonial to the contemporary period. Her work examines the many Bengali expressions of Islam. Her research also covers shared sacred space and religious elements common to both Bengali Hindus and Muslims. Sufia Uddin’s book, Constructing Bangladesh: Religion, Ethnicity, and Language in an Islamic Nation, was published by UNC Press in 2006.