Bangladesh: riparian society, engineered landscapes and the theology of ecological consciousness and climate change; Pakistan: Islam and everyday life; urban anthropology; religion and theology; law and literature; techniques and technologies of perception; US and South Asia: temporality and emergent rationalities.
Nature in Romantic Thought; Machine in Nature; Death and Extinction; The Animal in Anthropology; Invitation to Anthropology; Political Culture of Pakistan; Time in Anthropology; Religion and Secularism; Back to the Future; Anthropology of the Everyday; Anthropology of the Senses; Anthropology of Belief; Film, Fate and Law; The Occult in South Asia; Magic, Science and Religion; Readings in Islam; The City in South Asia; South Asian Religions.
My research is located at the intersections of the study of material environments, temporality, and the everyday. A focus on urban built forms, their symbolization and everyday use served as the springboard for transitioning from my dissertation and postdoctoral research to my first book, which explores how the Islamic tradition and the aspiration to strive together shape collective projects in Pakistan. My most recent research shifts location and focus to examine rural and riverine environments in Bangladesh as they intersect with multiple possible futures, including the temporalities of everyday life, those of material substances such as riverine flows and silt sedimentation, and the crisis-inflected future of climate change. My further interest is in the technological imagination of material environments of the distant future, particularly its utopian and futurist dimensions, to be studied through desert reclamation projects in the Middle East but this is yet to be researched. In all of these projects, I not only draw upon the methodologies of archival research and textual analysis from the humanities, fieldwork practice from anthropology, but also engage concepts and frameworks from the environmental sciences to produce multidisciplinary work that is attentive to the weave of enduring and emergent questions within the social.
The opportunity to edit a book on Pakistan served as the occasion to do an extensive literature review on the country that analyzed how “crisis” as a mode of thinking and experience of time shaped the dominant representation of Pakistan. The edited volume, Beyond Crisis: Re-evaluating Pakistan (Routledge India/UK, 2010) brought together nineteen rising scholars of Pakistan within the social sciences and the humanities to explore what it is to live with or refuse the designation of crisis.
In Muslim Becoming: Aspiration and Skepticism in Bangladesh (Duke University Press and Orient Blackswan [India], 2012) I argue that contrary to commonplace claims that the movement for Pakistan lacked vision or that the creation of Pakistan was a historical error, there was a commitment to Pakistan being a place for Muslim striving which laid emphasis on human perfectibility rather than a final picture of perfection. In other words, I argue that Pakistan was envisioned as a place of perpetual striving rather than one directed at a single endpoint. I provide an archaeological account of this commitment by sifting through literary, philosophical and legal texts, turning a genealogical eye to the unremarked-upon but persistent striving within mosque-related conflicts in neighborhoods, individual pious pursuits, theological polemics and a fractured public culture.
A collaborative project on numbers, which I undertook with my colleagues Jane Guyer and Juan Obarrio provided me an opportunity to explore further the themes of becoming and the capaciousness of the past by looking at the proliferation of numbers in contemporary life. We held a series of workshops on the place of number in everyday life. The first of these “Number as Inventive Frontier” led to a co-edited special issue of the journal Anthropological Theory.
Most recently I have begun to ask how the picture of the future inflects the present by making the future subject to intense discussion, negotiations and dissension. In addition to temporality, my interest in material environments and everyday life led me to ask how specifically long-term modeling of climate change comes to have bearing upon actual physical sites and specific weather events. How do people come to accept (or not) new horizons and, within this context, what happens to pre-existing efforts to secure everyday life and to projects of human perfectibility? These concerns and questions led to a significant change of course, from studying the urban environment in Pakistan within the context of nationalist and religious struggles to studying the rural and riverine environment in Bangladesh within the context of global climate change. At present I am working on a book manuscript based on three years of research in Bangladesh tentatively titled—Ensouling the Anthropocene: Riverine Life and Climate Change in Bangladesh, while an Andrew Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship has given me the opportunity to acquire new competencies in geomorphology and watershed hydrology to enable further research towards bringing together critical perspectives of/on the natural sciences alongside ethnographic work.
Riverine Life, Engineered Landscapes and Bangladesh
“The Green of Khizr” under review.
“Of Humans and Dogs and What Silt Wants to Be” under review
“The Death of Nature in the Era of Global Warming” in Wording the World: Veena Das and her Interlocutors ed. Roma Chatterji. Forthcoming from Fordham University Press
“Geddes in India: Town Planning, Plant Sentience, Cooperative Evolution” Environment and Planning (D) 29(5), 2011: 840-856
Islam, Everyday Life and Pakistan
Muslim Becoming: Aspiration and Skepticism in Pakistan. Duke University Press 2012.
“The Acoustics of Muslim Striving: Loudspeaker Use in Ritual Practice in Pakistan” Comparative Studies on Society and History (CSSH) 53(3), 2011: 571-594
“Images that come Unbidden: Some Thoughts on the Danish Cartoon Controversy” special issue of Borderlands on Religion and Sexuality. 9(3), 2010
“Introduction” Beyond Crisis: Reevaluating Pakistan, Routledge, 2010.
“Mosque Construction, Or the Violence of the Ordinary” Beyond Crisis: Reevaluating Pakistan, Routledge, 2010.
“Maulana Yusuf Ludhianvi on the Limits of Legitimate Religious Difference” in Islam in South Asia in Practice ed. Barbara Metcalf, Princeton University Press, 2009, pp. 438-446.
“The Martyrdom of Mosques: Imagery and Iconoclasm in Modern Pakistan” in Enchantments of Modernity ed. Saurabh Dube, Routledge, 2008, pp. 372-401.
“Of Children and Jinns: An Inquiry into an Unexpected Friendship During Uncertain Times” Cultural Anthropology vol 21(6), May 2006, pp. 234-264. Republished in Ali Khan ed. Oxford in Pakistan: Readings in Sociology and Social Anthropology, 2011 and in abridged form in Diane Mines and Sarah Lamb eds. Everyday Life in South Asia, 2010.
“Trespasses of the State: Ministering the Copyright to Theological Dilemmas” Bare Acts, Sarai Reader 5, (CSDS, Delhi, 2005), pp. 178-188. http://www.sarai.net/publications/readers/05-bare-acts/01_naveeda.pdf
Temporality and Emergent Rationalities
Co-editor with Jane I. Guyer and Juan Obarrio of “Number as Inventive Frontier,” special issue of Anthropological Theory May 2010.
“The Speech of Generals: Some Meditations on Pakistan” refereed and posted on the SSRC Forum Pakistan in Crisis January 2nd 2008
“Flaws in the Flow: Roads and their Modernity in Pakistan” Social Text Winter 2006, pp. 87-113.
"Networks Actual and Potential: Think Tanks, War Games and the Creation of Contemporary American Politics" co-authored with Bhrigupati Singh, Deborah Poole and Richard Baxstrom, Theory and Event, September 2005.