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Associate Professor of History
Areas of Interest: Nation-state formation, borders, borderlands, refugees, displacement, anthropology of violence, visual and material culture, politics of knowledge, history of modern South Asia.
Vazira Zamindar joined Brown’s History Department in 2006, and works at the intersection of anthropology and history with an interest in cross-border histories for rethinking a divided South Asia, as well as the politics of violence and its impact on history-writing itself. Her book, The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories, was published by Columbia University Press in 2007, and Indian and Pakistani editions of the book came out in 2008. She is presently working on a second book on the history of archaeology and war on the northwest frontier of British India, on the borderlands with Afghanistan, and has received the International Institute of Asian Studies Fellowship, the Fulbright, and the National Endowment for Humanities Fellowship, amongst others, for this project. She has also started working on a parallel project following a single death that occurred during her fieldwork in Pakistan.
With a commitment to public engagement, in addition to giving academic talks, she has been involved in the organization of large public teach-ins on campus, on the floods in Pakistan in 2010, and on the Occupy movement in 2011. She has also worked with Primary Source and the Choices program, FirstWorks Providence, the RISD Museum, as well as more recently with the Lahore Museum. On campus, she remains active in organizing and supporting an array of South Asia related events, including the South Asia Documentary Film Festival in 2011 and the Questioning Marginality conference in 2013.
A Single Death in the Global South
What happens when a member of a family goes missing in a megacity of the global south? How do we make sense of a human life and death beyond the numbers that are routinely used to explain warzones and urban conflicts across the globe? This ethno-historical project tracks a family’s search for a body through an array of civil society and state institutions - NGOs, religious and charitable societies, courts, police stations, intelligence agencies, para-military and military cells – until the body is found. Does a single death matter? What is terror and grief, and does it have historical and cultural specificity? Does it have wider implications for thinking about “humanity” as a universalizing ethical and political category?
Archaeology and War in the Indo-Afghan Borderlands
In February 2001, the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan amidst widespread international condemnation, and in October that year the US, with NATO forces, invaded the country. While the two events are arguably distinct, this project brings together an aesthetic and political history of the Indo-Afghan borderlands to interrogate the relationship between archaeology and war from the 1860s to the 1930s. From tope-hunting to museumization of Gandharan Buddhist artifacts, from imperial expansion to punitive military expeditions along the insurgent tribal frontier, this book examines how war has shaped institutions of archaeology and heritage, and archaeological imagination the very frames of war.
The Long Partition, published by Columbia University Press in 2007, is an ethno-historical account of the years following the political partition of the Indian subcontinent, and sutures together histories of genocidal violence and mass displacement, border-making and nation-state formation in Delhi and Karachi. It locates the figure of the “refugee” at the heart of nation-state formation and citizenship in India and Pakistan, and tracks this specificity of South Asia’s experience of decolonization within a comparative frame of the twentieth century.
‘Memory and War in Bangladesh,’ Public Books, 19 June 2013. http://www.publicbooks.org/authors/qFSvxXD
“The Bengal Experience” The Book Review http://www.thebookreviewindia.org/articles/archives-1363/2013/october/10/the-bengal-experience.html
“India-Pakistan Partition and Forced Migrations,” The Encyclopedia of Global Migrations, Spring 2012.
‘1947: Recovering Displaced Histories of Karachi’, Interpreting the Sindhi World: Essays on Culture, History and Language, edited by Michel Boivin and Mathew Cook. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2009.
The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories, New York: Columbia University Press, 2007. Indian edition, Delhi: Penguin India, 2008. Pakistani edition, Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2008. Paperback, Columbia University Press, 2010. Urdu edition, Mashal Books, 2014.
"Sadequain: The Making and Unmaking of a National Artist," The Holy Sinner, edited by Salima Hashmi. Karachi: Herald Publications, 2003.
"Edward Said and Eqbal Ahmad: Anti-Imperialist Struggles in a Post-Colonial World," ISIM Review, No. 13. December 2003. Also on the Eqbal Ahmad: Cherishing His Courage website.
"Veiled Politics: Rethinking the Debate on Hijab," ISIM Review, No.13. December 2003.
‘Yeh mulk hamara ghar: the national order of things and Muslim identity in John Mathew Mattan’s Sarfaroosh’, in Contemporary South Asia. Vol. 11, no.2 (2002):183-198.
'Rite of Passage: The Partition of History and the Dawn of Pakistan', Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Vol. 1, no.2 (1999):183-200. Republished in Partition and Post-Colonial South Asia: A Reader, Volume I, edited by Tan Tai Yong and Gyanesh Kudaisya, London: Routledge, 2007.
"A House Divided," The Herald Special Issue for the 50th Anniversary of Independence, Karachi: August 1997.
Empire and Resistance: South Asia Before 1947 (HIST 1580)
Inequality and Change: South Asia After 1947 (HIST 1581)
Boundaries, Refugees, Conflicts: The Partition of 1947 in Comparative Perspective (HIST 1976B)
Decolonizing Minds: A People’s History of the World (HIST 1977Q)
The Theory and Practice of History. (HIST 2930)
Power, Culture, Knowledge (HIST 2980)
Theory from the South (HIST 2981)