I am a legal and visual anthropologist working in the areas of migration, borders, state power, aesthetics, and ethnographic film. My current research generates medium-specific insights across writing and film to offer a visual anthropology of the state and advance political theory on majority-minority relations. In the context of cross-border migration and immigration policy in South Asia, I ask, how do majorities come to imagine themselves as minorities? Conversely, how do minorities come to imagine justice as part of majorities? How do majority-minority politics exceed the parameters of states, in ways that are not nation bound?
Currently in production, my documentary film, Kitne Passports? (How many Passports?), features cross-caste, Pakistani Hindu migrant families in India, visualizing their everyday identifications and disidentifications as they shift between minority and majority status. The film is a companion to my book manuscript, From Minority to Majority: Pakistani Hindu Claims to Indian Citizenship. The book is an ethnographic account of Pakistani Hindu migration to India that theorizes the flexibility of the religious minority form and caste across state borders in South Asia. Together, this work explores the relationships between religious nationalism, state machinery, and modes of cross-border belonging in the context of majority-minority relations in liberal democracies. Extending my interest in uneven mobilities and borders, I am also completing an experimental short film series on the movement of non-human animals and everyday objects across the India-Pakistan border. Films in the series include: A Gregarious Species, Kaagaz ke chakkar, and Enemy Property. As part of my fieldwork, I have conducted collaborative documentary filmmaking workshops with Pakistani Hindu middle-school students to understand and amplify their perspectives on life in India. My scholarship has received generous support from the Fulbright Commission, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Institute for Indian Studies, the NYU Vice Provost’s office and several other endowments. My films have screened at colleges and festivals nationally and internationally and my publications have featured in the Journal of Refugee Studies, Cultural Anthropology, and Visual Anthropology Review.
I believe that the study and production of film offer insights into the embodied, sensory dimensions of knowledge production. Moreover, my documentary theory and production courses reflect the idea that the study and production of film have the potential to cultivate solidarity among contemporary students of anthropology and the wider publics in which they are embedded. In my ethnographic filmmaking practice, I take a collaborative approach that uses Rouchian ideas of ‘shared anthropology,’ blurring the lines between anthropologists and their interlocutors, the observers and the observed. My first ethnographic film, Cast in India, raised questions around the relationship between built infrastructure in New York City and labor infrastructure in Howrah, India in the context of everyday urban objects such as manhole covers.
Invasive Media: The Making of A Gregarious Species. Journal of Media Art Study and Theory. Accepted.
Visualizing Citizenship in a Bureaucratic Frame. Visual Anthropology Review. Accepted.
Fuzzy Borders: Media, Migration Brokerage, and State Bureaucracy. American Ethnologist. Forthcoming
Governing by Proximity: State Performance and Migrant Citizenship on the India-Pakistan Border. Cultural Anthropology. 2022
Our Sisters and Daughters: Pakistani Hindu Migrant Masculinities and Digital Claims to Indian Citizenship. Journal of Immigration and Refugee Studies. 2022
Virtual Belonging, Digital Diaspora, and Hindu Sindhi Identity in the early 2000s. Journal of Sindhi Studies. 2022
A Pakistani Hindu demographic Migration Survey, western Rajasthan. Handbook of Refugees in India. Routledge Press. 2022
with Ghazal Asif. Unwelcome Guests and Hostages: Minority Claims on the State Political and Legal Anthropology Review. 2020
with Syantani Chatterjee. India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA): Citizenship and Belonging in India. Political and Legal Anthropology Review. 2020
Neither Here nor There: Pakistani Hindu Refugee Claims at the Interface of the International and South Asian Refugee Regimes. Journal of Refugee Studies. 2018
Warriors of Goja: Pains and Pleasures of the Sikh Male Body. Sikh Formations. 2014
with Zeynep Gürsel and Karen Strassler. Bureaucratic Images. Visual Anthropology Review. Accepted
with Syantani Chatterjee. India’s Citizenship Amendment Act. Political and Legal Anthropology Review. 2020
Films and Video Installations
Border Trilogy - Enemy Property (in Production); Kaagaz ke Chakkar (in Production); A Gregarious Species (Single-channel Video Installation, 8 min on loop, 2021)
Select Screenings: Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Flaherty NYC, Mimesis Documentary Festival, Mellon Border Environments Seminar, Rhode Island School of Design; Experimenter Learning Programme; Cornell Biennial SWARM; CAMRA at Penn Screening Scholarship Media Festival
Kitne Passports? (in Production)
1982 (6 min, USA/India, in Post-Production)
Stand Stable Here with Vijayanka Nair (2-channel video installation, 8 min loop, 2019)
Sindhi Kadhi (8 min, India/USA/France, 2018)
Produced by The Grandmas Project
Jodhpur Films (50 min, India/Australia, 2016)
Childhood and Modernity Video Workshop Facilitated by Natasha Raheja
Directed by David MacDougall (Australian National University)
Fishermen’s Right to Know (10 min, USA, 2015)
Produced by the Southern Environmental Law Center
Cast in India (26 min, USA/India, 2014)
Distributed by Documentary Educational Resources
Select Screenings: DOC NYC, Margaret Mead Film Festival, Sebastapol, Athens Ethnographic Film Festival, Sebastopol Documentary Festival, Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival, ETNOfilm, ETHNOCINECA, International Documentary Association
Malini Srinivasan (10 min, USA, 2012)
Sindhi Voices Project Oral History Interviews (2011-2014; archived with the 1947 Partition Archive)
Book and Film Reviews
Documenting Worker Struggle. Visual and New Media Review, Fieldsights, Cultural Anthropology Website. August 27, 2020
Mediating Mobility: Visual Anthropology in the Age of Migration. Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies (2018): 148-150.
Ishaare: Gestures and Signs in Mumbai American Anthropologist 119.4 (2017): 756-757.
With Rowena Potts. Interview with Shashwati Talukdar. Visual Anthropology Review 31.2 (2015): 201-202.