My research articulates an interest in bureaucracy, subjectivity, ethics and Islam; capital and the environment; science and technology studies and postcolonial critique; and South Asian historiography. These interests are articulated in two research projects I have been engaged in since 2010. Through ethnographic purchase on lower-level bureaucratic praxis, both projects address the larger question of the waxing and waning of the promise of postcolonial statecraft, and how national temporalities are interlaced with ‘natural’ ones. Both projects are centrally concerned with the claims particular ethnographic and archival methods allow. One traces the transformation and tenacity of British-era government forms and practices in Pakistan’s northwestern border area, following, in particular, litigation by families of drone strike victims. (Publications here)
The other, my current book project, Ecologies of water theft in Pakistan: the colony, the corporation and the contemporary, is a historical-legal ethnography building upon extended fieldwork in Pakistan, shorter stints in Sweden, Tajikistan, the U.S. and the Czech Republic and archival research. Ecologies of water theft shows how the changing terrain of water use and land ownership in the Punjab – Pakistan’s most populous province and its agricultural heartland – is entangled in the shoring up and undermining of the law, state sovereignty, corporate power, and projects of ethical self-formation. It was my dissertation project at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, completed in December 2018.
My essay, The Gender of Corruption: Bureaucrats, Bodies and the Female Complaint – Notes from an Irrigation bureaucracy in Pakistan, received the 2018 Sylvia Forman Award for an Outstanding Graduate Paper. The essay is a version of a dissertation chapter titled, Corruption: Mahawl, Labor and Gender, in which I examine corruption as the condition of possibility of ethical labor amongst my bureaucrat interlocutors. I show that corruption is the atmosphere (mahawl) one breathes in, has difficulty breathing in, just as it provides the materials with and against which ethical labor is expended. In the chapter I examine two distinct modalities of articulating corruption: the devaluation of salaried work to labor, and the masculinization of the female bureaucrat.