A native of Pakistan, I received my bachelor’s degree in Third World Studies from Vassar College, and a Master of Science (with distinction) in cultural geography from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) at the University of London. I completed a Master of Arts and a Doctorate of Philosophy in cultural anthropology at Yale University. My teaching experience includes visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Colgate University, and currently, assistant professor of anthropology at Purchase College at the State University of New York. My scholarly interests traverse Pakistan, India and the United States. Thematically, my interests include international migration, new immigrant communities and South Asian Muslim Americans in the United States; ethnographically-driven research on globalization and transnationalism; anthropology of mass media; gender and sexuality cross-culturally; postcolonial South Asia; and place-making and globalization.
NEW IMMIGRANTS IN THE UNITED STATES:
COMMUNITY-CENTERED ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF PAKISTANI MUSLIM AMERICANS
I have carried out research among Pakistani American communities in Houston, Texas since 2001. The culmination of my decade long research is a book-length ethnographic study, titled Lone Star State Muslims: Transnational Lives, American Dreams and South Asian Immigrants in Texas (forthcoming from New York University Press). In Lone Star State Muslims, a community-centered ethnographic study of Pakistani immigrants in Houston, I examine sectarian Shia Muslim communities, Muslim-American gay cultures, and ethnic economy, festivals, and media. I discuss these formations at the intersection of U.S. governmental regimes of surveillance, projects of South Asian diasporic nationhood, and transnational Islam.
Given the heightened U.S. government surveillance and the racializing of Muslim Americans during the last one decade, Lone Star State Muslims provides a critique of commonly held perceptions regarding the complicity of Islam with global terrorism. Equally, the book challenges the binary constructions of South Asian Muslim Americans as terrorist on the one hand, and as a model minority on the other.
De-centering such dominant ideological framings that flatten understandings of transnational Islam and Muslim Americans, I instead employ a cultural analysis to document the heterogeneity in Muslim American communities. Narratives discussed at length include: highly skilled Shia Ismaili Muslim labor force employed in corporate America; Pakistani ethnic entrepreneurs, the working class and the working poor; gay Muslim men of Pakistani descent; community activists; and radio program hosts. These narratives provide glimpses into the variety of lived experiences, and also show how specificities of class, profession, religious sectarian affiliations, citizenship status, gender, and sexuality shape transnational identities and subjectivities, and mediate marginalities, racism and abjection.
SOUTH ASIAN AMERICAN MEDIA
GLOBALIZATION AND NON-WESTERN MEDIA INDUSTRIES
I am currently in the middle of collecting data for a second book-length project tentatively titled Transnational Lives and South Asian Cultural Industries in the United States. This project builds on the discussions of Pakistani American radio in Lone Star State Muslims, and is a comparative study of South Asian radio cultures in the United States. In this research, I conceptualize Pakistani and Indian radio programs in Texas, New York and California as cultural products, communicative practices, social activities and historical developments that are central in the often volatile reconfigurations of belonging during the current period of globalization and religious transnationalism.
For research on this project, I have benefitted from the generous financial support from the Fishbein Award, awarded to a junior faculty member at Purchase College. I have utilized this award to carry out field work in New York City and Los Angeles, and follow-up research in Houston.
POST-COLONIAL SOUTH ASIA | GENDER AND SEXUALITY CROSS-CULTURALLY
I have been carrying out archival and ethnographic research in Pakistan since 1995 when I was employed as a research assistant at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Islamabad, Pakistan. My published research, primarily in the form of conference papers and proceedings, and articles in the English-language Pakistani popular press, has focused on contemporary Pakistan. Social justice and public policy provide the over-arching framework for this research.
Some of the issues I have written about include local governance and democratic decentralization, religious militancy; environment and sustainable development, and built heritage conservation, and Pakistani-Hindu and Pakistani-Sikh religious minority communities. I have contributed to conference papers and proceedings, and policy papers in order to actively contribute to public policy, generate awareness, and contribute to advocacy.
Gender and sexuality has also been a central thematic lens in my research. For example, in Lone Star State Muslims and in an essay in Journal of Language and Sexuality (February 2014), I provide a detailed ethnographic analysis of negotiations of transnational belonging among Muslim American gay men of Pakistani descent. In an effort to examine homosexuality among communities of color in the United States, I have contributed a chapter in an upcoming encyclopedia titled LGBT history and politics in the United States (forthcoming in May 2014) focusing on cultural constructions of homosexuality in Puerto Rico. I have also published research on same-sex sexual male friendships and condom usage in Pakistan, and the HIV epidemic in Pakistan.