FASS Staff Profile

DR ANNU JALAIS
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
SOUTH ASIAN STUDIES PROGRAMME

Appointment:
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
Office:
AS8/06-44
Email:
sasja@nus.edu.sg
Tel:
66012842
Fax:
Homepage:
http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/sasja/

Born and educated in Calcutta (now Kolkata), my fascination for stories about the Sundarbans, the largest natural habitat of Bengal tigers – famous for their man-eating habits – eventually led me to anthropology. I undertook fieldwork for nearly two years (between 1999 and 2001) in the West Bengal Sundarbans and was awarded a PhD in Anthropology at the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2004.

I view the relationship between humans and their environment, specifically in relation to wild animals and climate change, along with issues of development, justice and discrimination, as being at the core of my research. These have been explored in my first book Forest of Tigers: People, Politics and Environment in the Sundarbans (Routledge, 2010) and in articles. This region, famous since the 19th century for its distinctive plant and animal wildlife – especially the ‘man-eating’ Royal Bengal Tiger – is currently the scene of conflict between politics of global conservation and local inhabitants’ struggle for subsistence through both traditional and new globalised means. That is one strand explored in my research. But, at a more fundamental level, my book explores the human/non-human interface more directly: how people living in these impoverished islands interact with the tigers of the region and how their perceptions of tigers and locale articulate contradictory understandings of sociality.

My field, environmental anthropology, offers me opportunities for dialogue with the public to which I make a distinctive contribution; I teach a course called “Beasts, People, Wild Environments: South Asia”, I review for journals in anthropology as well as conservation and wildlife, I am an Associate Editor of the journal Conservation and Society, am currently writing on the Indian Anthropocene, the body and caste and have helped various media houses and journalists in understanding the Sundarbans or the Bengal delta (The Independent, NPR, Down to Earth, Earth Island JournalSahapedia, Daily Star, The Telegraph).

I have also been engaged in interdisciplinary research that brings together anthropological, historical and sociological methods and materials. Between September 2007 and August 2009 I was a researcher on an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project with Professors Joya Chatterji (History, Trinity College, Cambridge) and Claire Alexander (Sociology, Manchester) and conducted extensive fieldwork in Bangladesh and India. The first of the two publications I have co-written is: The Bengal Diaspora: Rethinking Muslim Migration (Routledge, December 2015). This book challenges a predominant assumption of theories of diaspora, namely that migrants settle in the West whereas, in fact, most remain in, or very close to, their own countries and regions of origin in the Global South. Dealing with the experience of Bengali Muslims, our research fills in the major gaps in historical and contemporary empirical knowledge about these communities, interactions with their ‘host communities’ and their links to those left behind. The second publication, a teaching resource booklet, comprises a comparative inter- and intra-national approach, spanning Bangladesh, India and Britain, and explores key sites within these nation-states. It is linked to a companion website (www.banglastories.org/) where through various life-stories, pictorial narratives and a historical timeline, it is possible for British-Bangladeshi children to get a greater sense of the histories of their ancestors, explore different phases of migration and settlement, and understand the shifting formations of ‘community’.

I have had the good fortune of teaching at the departments of Anthropology, London School of Economics, Goldsmiths College and the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) between 2003 and 2006 and of being a research fellow in places all over the world where I have met scholars with whom I have the immense honour of collaborating on various projects. The places have been the Agrarian Studies Program, Yale University, New Haven; the International Institute for Social History (IISH), Amsterdam; the International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden; Jawaharlal Nehru Institute for Advanced Studies (JNIAS) at the JNU, New Delhi; Jadavpur University, Kolkata; the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Cambridge, UK; the Centre d'Études de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud (CEIAS), Paris.


The modules I (have) taught / teach at NUS:

  • GEM1913 Beasts, People and Wild Environments
  • SN2234 Gender and Society in South Asia
  • SN2271 Religion and Society in South Asia
  • SN1101E South Asia: People, Culture, Development

Other teaching interests:

  • Introducing Anthropology
  • The anthropology of human-animal relations
  • Conservation issues and social justice
  • Gender and sexuality; Kinship and society
  • Religion (especially South Asian forms of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Sikkhism)
  • Societies and Cultures along the Silk Roads

I have been very fortunate to supervise and/or be examiner for some great PhD students: 

16/12/2018          Thesis examiner of Alexandra Stadlen – Anthropology, LSE – ‘Weaving Lives from Violence: Possibility and Change for Muslim Women in Rural West Bengal.’

09/18 – to date     PhD advisor of Lakshmi Pradeep – NUS, South Asian Studies – on symbolic and environmental meanings of coral reefs in Lakshwadeep islands, Arabian Sea.

09/14 – to date     PhD advisor of Souradip Bhattacharya – NUS, South Asian Studies – on Indo-Danish Heritage sites and the working classes of Serampore, West Bengal.

09/17 – to date     On the thesis committee of Calynn Dowler – Anthropology, Boston University – on water, climate change and environment in the Indian Sundarbans.

11/18 – to date     On the thesis committee of Miriam Jaehn – NUS Comparative Studies – on Rohingya refugees’ journeys across Asia, particularly Nepal and Thailand.

11/18 – to date     On the thesis committee of Marine Bellégo – Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, History of Science – botanical gardens of Calcutta, 1871-1914. 

09/12 – 12/15      Thesis committee member of Ambika Aiyadurai – NUS Sociology – who successfully defended on hunting practices in frontier Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India. Dr. Aiyadurai is now working as an Assistant Professor at IIT Gandhinagar and continuing her very fruitful collaborative research in biodiversity conservation, human-animal relations (especially those of the indigenous people the Mishmi and the Meyor) and conservation and development in one of the most remote and little-known places of India.

I am always keen to discuss potential masters, PhD and postdoctoral research topics in the broad field of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Religion as well as Environmental Humanities (including human-environment and human-wildllife interactions). My geographical strength has been South Asia but I am now expanding my horizons to engage with the anthropological literature on Southeast Asia ('It's too crazy, lah') and China ('Reworlding the ancient Chinese tiger in the realm of the Asian Anthropocene') in articles and in upcoming projects (I am part of a team looking at Climate Change in the Bengal and Mekong deltas). As Anthropologists we have been taught to recognise the fact that many of the ways with which we humans make sense of our worlds cannot be confined to political or disciplinary boundaries and therefore I, along with my colleagues, welcome studies that challenge boundaries. This is why Singapore, with its multicultural background, and South Asian Studies at NUS, with its faculty coming from various disciplines, is a great base for interdisciplinary research, teaching and learning.


My research centres upon the ways in which humans make sense of their world and is guided by the question: how do we as humans relate to the non-human world, and how does that world influence us?

Four main themes are at the core of my research: 

1) Climate change, Eco-psychiatry and Mental Health

Mental illness and suicides are very widespread in deltaic Bengal – especially in the Sundarbans region. One of the ways in which people fall prey to mental illness is through the ‘fear’ contracted after having seen or been in some sort of physical proximity with the nonhuman world. Following Descola and those who have worked on various forms of human-animal environments, my research explores the ‘nonhuman’ (which includes in this case animals, spirits, certain trees, gusts of wind, etc) to discuss the natural world from the Sundarbans islanders’ point of view. When someone ‘catches fear’, that person is seen as needing to be cured of it lest it ends up disturbing the person’s mental well-being and potentially causing death. The ‘cure’ is usually provided by a ritual healer, customarily a person who also works in the forest, and is a ‘tiger-charmer’. Research in ethno-psychiatry suggests that ritual healing may actually be therapeutically effective. However, for one to be able to account for how it works in the case, for example, of human/nonhuman environments, one has to understand a particular cosmological worldview where nonhumans are seen as being part of a common world with humans and not one where they are seen as separate. My research delves into what ‘ecopsychiatry’ might mean from indigenous healers’ perspectives.

 

2) Dunhuang paintings of 'monk with tiger'

Buddhist and Islamic connections between Central Asia, South Asia and China are yet to be explored to their full potential. Taking the figure of the tiger as a pivot, my research tries to contextualise the ways in which histories of circulation, in the context of Asia, have been written (apart from some exceptions of course) to valorise either nation-states or perceived religious traditions. The argument proposed is that not enough has been made of the fact that the 9th and 10th centuries were incredibly important periods in relation to shared religious beliefs throughout Asia. For example, could the Dunhuang paintings of ‘monk with tiger’, even though depicted as ‘Buddhist’ by scholars on China, be really, ‘Islamic’ ? The trope of the Sufi saint accompanied by a tiger is one which exists all through South Asia, South East Asia as well as Mongolia and northern China. How does one uncover the long history of circulations and mobilities that have stretched beyond the confines of either India or China via the painted figures of monks with tigers?

 

3) ‘(Re)thinking the environment and the nonhuman in the Indian Anthropocene

Over the last decade, we have seen the emergence of an Indian revivalism of “nature” – one that is steeped in notions of Vedic philosophies and expressed in the Indian middle-class’ keenness in consuming ayurvedic products and practices. These have been branded and repackaged as authentically ‘Hindu’, whether these be practices (fasting, yoga, astrology, vastu sastra, etc to help couples have ‘designer babies’, build homes, or plan travels) or products (such as those by Patanjali, Dabur India ltd, Sri Sri Tattva, etc believed to be natural and ancient and therefore beneficial for the body), and taken up by an avid middle class. This use of ‘nature’ in contemporary middle-class India contrasts with the ways in which modes of engaged multi-species environments and environmental ethics are and have been lived out by the non-urban majority of Indians. Highlighting the recent ethnographic contributions on the debates over environmentalism and caste to talk about the body, my research critically examines why non-vegetarianism and the consumption of meat, especially beef, has become such a site of contention in certain parts of India. This leads to an analyses of the Indian middle classes’ contradictions and paradoxes when it comes to thinking about the human body and that of nonhumans, and how these contradictions and paradoxes return to deep-seated ideas about caste.

 

4) Subaltern identity and religious pluralism in the last forty years in Bangladesh and West Bengal

This part of my research examines the long tradition of religious pluralism that has existed in Bengal. Highlighting examples of practices that blend traditions from different religious spheres (Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian), I offer a fresh look at the nuances and complexities of these practices and underscore the transformation of these interrelated processes in order to allow a re-think of the question of ‘religious plurality’ (especially in relation to today’s socio-political context), a question that has become prominent in anthropological and political discussions of the last couple of decades. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, interviews with individuals from resettled and marginalised communities, this is also an exploration about what it means to be Bengali when one is not elite.

 

Research interests:

Climate change and the Anthropocene; the human/non-human interface; anthropology of the environment, particularly wildlife conservation in South Asia; kinship; gender; postcolonial and subaltern history; Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and their interconnections; migration trajectories in South Asia; Inequality, the body and notions of health; Eco-psychiatry and non-western understandings of 'mental health'; Diaspora literature.


My first book Forest of Tigers: People, Politics and Environment in the Sundarbans (Routledge, 2010) is an anthropological study of the human/non-human interface in the mangrove islands of the southern part of the Bengal delta which are the Sundarbans. Acclaimed for their unique ecosystem and Royal Bengal tigers, the key question explored is: what do tigers mean for the islanders of the Sundarbans? The diverse origins and current occupations of the local population produce different answers to this question; but for all, ‘the tiger question’ is a significant social marker. Far more than through caste, tribe or religion, the Sundarbans islanders articulate their social locations and interactions by reference to the non-human world – the forest and its terrifying protagonist, the man-eating tiger. The book combines ethnography on a little-known region with contemporary theoretical insights to provide a new frame of reference to understand social relations in the Indian subcontinent.

My second book The Bengal Diaspora: Rethinking Muslim Migration (Routledge, 2015), co-authored with Professors Joya Chatterji (Trinity, University of Cambridge) and Claire Alexander (University of Manchester), is about the experiences of the Bengali and Bihari Muslims who left India for East Pakistan after 1947 when India was partitioned; for the purposes of this book I conducted fieldwork in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, between 2006 and 2009 and wrote three of its chapters. Our book highlights how migration into the region started long before the Partition of India. Between 1911 and 1931, for example, the eastern zone consistently recorded the highest number of internal immigrants and emigrants in British India. This was true both for men and women. The census figures suggest that by 1921, almost one in ten of India’s population, or some 30 million people, were internal migrants. In other words, in 1921, the number of people who were enumerated as internal migrants totaled more than the total number of journeys overseas migrants made over the course of an entire century! By 1931, 6 million people had moved within and from the greater Bengal region. This is already twice as large as the entire Indian diaspora worldwide in 1947. Our study supports Aristide Zolberg’s two most significant claims: first, that ‘nation-making is a refugee generating process’ and, second, that the vast majority of the world’s refugees, since the second WW, have stayed within their regions of origin in the developing world, with only a tiny minority migrating to the countries of the industrialised West (Zolberg and Benda [eds] Global Migrants, Global Refugees, 2001. We too observed that where refugees did cross national borders, most have stayed close to the borders of their countries of origin.

We wanted our work to be disseminated rapidly, so in both cases we chose Routledge, a publishing house which offered to publish our books nearly simultaneously in the UK, in India and in the US within the first year of publication. In a concern that our work reach the wider public, we set up along with the help of the Runnymede Foundation, a website (www.banglastories.org/) where through various life-stories and pictorial narratives, high-school students, principally British-Bangladeshi ones, can get a greater sense of the histories of their ancestors, explore phases of migration and settlement, and understand the shifting formations of ‘community’. We have also written in the media and our work appeared in the Daily Star from Bangladesh (Chatterji) (Jalais)


BOOKS/MONOGRAPHS AUTHORED

  • Books
    • Forest of Tigers: People, Politics and Environment in the Sundarbans, Routledge: New Delhi, London, New York (2010).
    • The Bengal Diaspora: Rethinking Muslim Migration. Co-author with Joya Chatterji and Claire Alexander. Routledge: London, New Delhi (2015).

     

    Articles

    • ‘Reworlding the ancient Chinese tiger in the realm of the Asian Anthropocene’, International Communication of Chinese Culture, May 9 2018. Vol. 5, Issue 1-2, pp. 121-144.
    • ‘Bengali ‘Biharis’’ Muharram: the identitarian trajectories of a community’, Südasien-Chronik – South Asia Chronicle 4/2014, S. 69-93. © Südasien-Seminar der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin ISBN: 978-3-86004-303-5
    • ‘Braving Crocodiles with Kali: Being a prawn-seed collector and a modern woman in the 21st century Sundarbans’, Socio-Legal Review, Vol. 6, 2010.
    • ‘Unmasking the Cosmopolitan Tiger’, Nature and Culture, (vol. 3, no. 1, 2008), pp. 25-40.
    • ‘The Sundarbans: Whose World Heritage Site?’, Conservation and Society, (vol. 5, no. 4, 2007).
    • ‘Dwelling on Morichjhanpi: When Tigers Became ‘Citizens’, Refugees ‘Tiger-Food’’; Special Article in Economic and Political Weekly, April 23 2005, pp. 1757 – 1762. Also reproduced in: - http://sanhati.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/jalais-morichjhanpi.pdf; - translated into Bengali (by Padmini Chakrabarty) as ‘Sundarbaner Bagh Nawrokhaddok Holo Kibhabe’ in Marichjhanpi: Chhinya Desh, Chhinya Itihas, ed. Madhumay Pal, 2009, pp. 206 – 224, Gangchil, Kolkata; and in Adal Badal, 2006, Bimal Biswas, Kolkata.

     

    Book Chapters

    • ‘Bonbibi and Kali in Rival Riverine Chronicles from the Sundarbans’, chapter Living with Water: Peoples, Lives and Livelihoods in Asia and Beyond, ed. by Rila Mukherjee, published by Primus Books: New Delhi. June 2017.
    • ‘Geographies and Identities: Subaltern Partition Stories along Bengal’s Southern Frontier’, chapter for book on Borderland Lives in Northern South Asia, ed. by David N. Gellner, published by Duke University Press: Durham, NC, December 2013.
    • ‘Linguistic Minorities’ (with a focus on Urdu-speakers) 2009, chapter in Human Rights in Bangladesh 2008: Dashed Hopes, Receding Horizons, New Frontiers; Ain-O-Salish Kendra, Dhaka (Bengali: http://www.askbd.org/HR_report_bangla/18.pdf; English: http://www.askbd.org/hr_report2008/17_LINGUSTIC.pdf)

     

    Book reviews, small entries, outreach and jottings

    • ‘It’s too crazy, lah - Why Singaporeans are disappointed over a Hollywood movie about their wealthy elite’, BL Ink, The Hindu Business Line’s Saturday Magazine, New Delhi. 8.9.2018.
    • The tears that still bind, Daily Star, Star Magazine on Partition special issue, Dhaka. 25.8.2017.
    • Book review Partition’s Post-amnesias: 1947, 1971 and Modern South Asia, by Ananya Jahanara Kabir (Women Unlimited: New Delhi, 2013) for Contributions to Indian Sociology, October 2016; Vol. 50, 3: pp. 435-437.
    • Book review Being Bengali: At Home and in the World, ed. By Mridula Nath Chakraborty, (Routledge: New York, London, 2014) for Pacific Affairs, December 2016; Vol. 89, No. 4.
    • Book review of Anand Pandian’s Crooked Stalks: Cultivating Virtue in South India. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009) for Pacific Affairs, March 2011, Volume 84, No. 1.
    • ‘Islam’s Bengali Avatar’, Global: the international briefing, April 2011; http://www.global-briefing.org/2011/04/islam’s-bengali-avatar-2/
    • ‘Sajnekhali’, chapter in First Proof 6, Penguin: New Delhi, New York, October, 2010.
    • Co-author with Joya Chatterji & Claire Alexander of Bangla Stories: Teaching resources for key stage 3 (in collaboration with the Runnymede Trust, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the London School of Economics’ Higher Education Innovation Fund. This teaching resource booklet accompanies website (www.banglastories.org) aimed at British high-school children, with a focus on the migration of Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh and India to the UK; 2010.
    • ‘Confronting Authority, Negotiating Morality: tiger prawn seed collection in the Sundarbans’, International Collective in Support of Fishworkers,[http://icsf.net/icsf2006/uploads/publications/yemaya/pdf/english/issue_32/art01.pdf]; Yemaya, 32, Nov 2009. (Also translated in French: http://base.d-p-h.info/en/fiches/dph/fiche-dph-8148.html)
    • ‘Bonbibi, “déesse” tutélaire des forêts des Sunderbans envoyée d’Allah’, Rencontre avec l’Inde, Vol. 41, no 2, November 2012.
    • ‘Bonbibi: Bridging Worlds’, Indian Folklore, serial no. 28, Jan 2008
    • Sundarboner prem (‘Sundarban’s Prem’ -prem being both a person’s name as well as meaning ‘love’), in Korak (a monthly periodical on art and literature), Kolkata, Sept. 2000.
    • La séparation et l’amour dans les chants bhaoaiya des femmes du Bengale du Nord, Inde. (‘Separation and love in Bhaoaiya songs of women of north Bengal, India’). DREA, INALCO, Paris.
    • Entry on ‘Bengalis’, Encyclopedia of the World’s Minorities, ed. Carl Skutsch, Routledge, 2004.
    • Some of my photos from Bangladesh illustrate Moving People, Changing Places by Kim Knott (www.movingpeoplechangingplaces.org), co-published by University of Leeds, Diasporas, Migration and Identities & Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK (2012)
    • Co-authored with Professor Peter Loïzos. Film curriculum for the International Summer School in Forced Migration, Refugees Studies Centre, Oxford (Refugees Studies Centre, Oxford 1999).

2018 Member of Movindeltas project which is an international team of scholars applying to the European Commission for the call: ‘H2020 LC-CLA-05-2019 – Human dynamics of Climate change’ to work on the topic in the Bengal and Mekong deltas. We are the recipient of initial seed money from the ANR (Agence National de la Recherche) for the “montage de réseaux scientifiques européens ou internationaux” (MRSEI - translated for the 'Setting Up of European or International Scientific Networks', awarded €30,000).

2012 Start-up grant for ‘The Delta Dwellers: Religion and Subaltern Bengali identity in Contemporary Bangladesh and West Bengal’, NUS, S$ 25,000.

2011 ‘Forest of Tigers: People, Politics and Environment in the Sundarbans’ long listed by the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS), Social Sciences category.

2006 – ’09 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), U.K., under Diasporas, Migration & Identities large research grants for ‘The Bengal Diaspora’ (with Joya Chatterji and Claire Alexander) £ 500,000.

2011 Arts and Humanities Research Council, U.K., travel grant for ‘Early Bengali Printed Materials: Digitisation and Research (1778-1914)’ workshop with the British Library and the National Library, Kolkata, India; approx. £ 1200.

2004 ‘Malinowski Memorial Research Fund’, LSE, Anthropology; approx. £ 500.

2004 ‘Radcliffe-Brown Trust’; Royal Anthropological Institute; approx. £ 400.

2003 European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) – travel.

2000 – ’03 Research Studentships and travel grants, Department of Anthropology, LSE.

1992 – ’97 Scholarship from the French Govt. for DEUG, DULCO, and DREA.

  • Keynote speaker for ‘Ecotones 4: Partitions and Borders’. Paper: ‘The Human and the Nonhuman: Bengali ‘environmental’ ecotones and their deep contradictions’ December 2018.
  • Invited Speaker for ‘Concepts from the Global South’ Conference. Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, University of Cape Town. Paper ‘Jehan: What’s a World?’ October 2018.
  • Paper ‘Do human-wildlife ‘interactions’ affect mental health in the Sundarbans?’ presented at the “Planetary Health Center of Expertise” University of Santa Barbara, July 2018.
  • Invited speaker. Paper ‘The Singapore ‘Garden City’ – youthful reflections in the epoch of the Anthropocene’ as part of workshop Death of Life and Nature in Asian Urbanism, organized by K. Sivaramakrishnan and Anne Rademacher. Hong Kong, June 2018.
  • Invited speaker. Paper ‘Caste, Body and the Nonhuman: Indian ‘environmental’ revivalism and its deep contradictions’, as part of the panel on Anthropocentrism and its Discontents: Emergent Ecologies, Embodied Environments and the Challenge of Deep Humanism, organized by Joseph S. Alter and Smriti Srinivas, Association for Asian Studies (AAS) conference, Delhi, July 2018.
  • Invited speaker. History Seminar Series, ‘The ‘monks with tigers’ paintings in the Dunhuang caves: from Persia, Central Asia or India?’, NTU, invited by Ngoei Wen-Qing, Oct 2017.
  • Invited speaker. Paper ‘Worlding the Cow and the Tiger in the age of the Anthropocene’ at Conference on Human : Non-Human - Bodies, things and Matter across Asia and Europe by Angelika Malinar; organized by URPP Asia and Europe (Zurich, October 2016) http://www.asienundeuropa.uzh.ch/de/events/conferences/bodies.html
  • Invited Plenary speaker at the Student Conference for Conservation Science (http://www.sccs-bng.org/), Bengaluru, September 2016.
  • Invited speaker. Workshop Tracking the Tiger: From Colonialism to Conservation (London, October 2016) organized by Aleks Plukowski (University of Reading & the Leverhulme Trust) where I presented on my Sundarbans work and collaborated on a future grant proposal.
  • Paper ‘Monk with tiger: from Bengal to China, Buddhism to Islam’ in panel Riding the Waves: Circulatory Routes connecting Bengal and China, at the Dynamic Borderlands: Livelihoods, Communities and Flows organized by the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) (Kathmandu, December 2016) http://asianborderlands.net/dynamic-borderlands-livelihoods-communities-and-flows
  • Invited to present at workshop on ‘Religion and Climate Change in Cross-Regional Perspective’ (New Delhi, December 2016) by Samir Saran from the Observer Research Foundation http://www.american.edu/clals/religion-and-climate-change.cfm (all expenses paid).
  • ‘Sunni-Shia entente over Muharram in the Bengal borderlands’ paper presented at panel on Muharram at the Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, October 2016.
  • ‘Tazia trajectories in Bangladesh: mapping Moharram’s north Indian past’ as part of workshop on Locating Bangladesh in South Asian Studies, Humboldt University, Berlin, May 2013.
  • Co-organiser with Professor Amites Mukhopadhyay of workshops: (1) ‘Forests, Sociality, Borderlands: Revisiting Issues in Deltaic Bengal, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), Teen Murti, Delhi, July 2012; (2) Rice and Rage in the Sundarbans Today, Modern Academy for Continuing Education (MACE), Kolkata, December 2012.
  • ‘Horsing through Dhaka: mapping Urdu-speakers’ geographies’ in panel on Nationality in Question: Democracy, Inequity, and Minorities at NYU, Global South Asia Conference, Jan 2011.
  • Keynote speech (‘Of Scientific Masks, Sundarbans Man-eaters and Islanders’ lived ecology’) at the Society and Ecology Network, Delhi April 2011.
  • ‘Géographies religieuses et identités bengalies: histoires ‘Subaltern’ de la Partition le long de la frontière bengalie du Sud’, Centre d’Etudes de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud (CEIAS). Paris, April 2011.
  • ‘Unmasking the Cosmopolitan Tiger: People, Politics & the Bengal tigers of the Sundarbans’, World Wildlife Fund, Delhi, March 2011.
  • ‘Science, Conservation and Ecology: Rethinking the Sundarbans Tiger’, Centre for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, March 2011.
  • ‘From ‘Bonbibi’ to ‘Bondebi’: erasing the liminal, escaping the regional’, Liminal Deities Workshop, organized by Projit B. Mukharji, McMaster University, Hamilton, Sept.  2010.
  • ‘Sweet water, masks, and man-eating tigers in the mangroves of the Sundarbans’, talk at the Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University, April 2010.
  • ‘Bangali: not Bhadralok’, Talk for the Agrarian Studies colloquium series, under Professors James Scott and Sivaramakrishnan, (Yale University, March 2010).
  • ‘Is salt-water thicker than blood? Allah’s Bonbibi, man-eating tigers, and the making of kin in deltaic Bengal’, talk organised by the South Asia Initiative, discussants Professors Amartya Sen and Sugata Bose, (Harvard University, March 2010).
  • ‘From peerless pirs to bold bauleys: tiger-charmers, Islam and the forests of the Sundarbans’, talk organised by the Center for the Study of Asia, (Boston University, March 2010).
  • ‘Horsing through Dhaka: mapping the trails of Paikis’ Urdu pasts’, as part of the workshop on ‘Collective Contexts of Islamic Identity: intersections between Community, Gender and Religion’ organised by Shailaja Fennell at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH, Cambridge University, April 2009).
  • ‘Lines of Fire, Choppy Rivers: Alignments and Separations along Bengal’s Southern Frontier’ as part of the British Academy workshop Borderlands in South Asia organised by David Gellner, discussant Willem Van Schendel and Prashant Jha for the British Association of South Asian Studies (BASAS, Edinburgh, 2009).
  • ‘Rajarhat model town: bring us NRIs, Tam-Bram IT gurus, but not Muslims’ Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Calcutta (CSSSC, Kolkata, Dec 2008).
  • ‘The Cosmopolitan Tiger’. Paper presented at the conference ‘Environmental Cosmopolitans’; discussant Ben Campbell. Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA) (Keele, April 2006). Shorter version presented at BRAC University, Dhaka, Feb 2008.
  • Chair of invited session of the American Anthropological Association conference (AAA, Washington DC, Dec 2005) ‘Between ‘States’: Colonial Legacies and Women’s Agency across India’s Emerging Post-Colonial Social Imaginary’; presented paper on ‘Braving Crocodiles with Kali: Being a prawn seed collector and a modern woman in the 21st century Sundarbans’.
  • ‘From peerless pirs to bold bauleys: the history of Sundarbans tiger-charmers’. Paper presented at the SOAS, History Department; discussant Dr. Daud Ali (London, December 2003). A modified version of this paper was also presented at the Dept. of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge (Nov 2005), St Andrews, May 2007 and at Dhaka University (Nov 2007).
  • Panel organiser with Murali Shanmugavelan: ‘Rethinking Discrimination: Marginalisation and Human Rights in Global South Asia’ as part of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) conference (Kolkata, Dec 2004).
  • ‘The Sundarbans aka ‘beautiful forests’: whose world heritage site?’ – paper presented as part of a workshop on ‘Environmental protection: socio-cultural and political-economic dimensions’, European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) conference (September 2004) – discussants: James Carrier (Oxford) & Flip van Helden (Vienna).
  • ‘Ethical dilemmas surrounding poaching in the Sundarbans’ – paper presented as part of the Conference on Livelihoods at the Margins (July 2004) organised by James Staples at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) – discussant: Professor Barbara Harriss-White (Oxford).
  • ‘Dwelling on Morichjhanpi: tigers becoming citizens and refugees ‘tiger-food’’ in the panel ‘Forgetting Bengal: stories that get lost in nationalist narratives’ organised by Tahmima Anam – American Anthropological Association conference (AAA, Chicago, Nov 2003) – discussants: Professors Partha Chatterjee, Gautam Ghosh & Ralph Nicholas.
  • ‘On understanding relatedness among ‘conniving collectives’: people and tigers in the Sundarbans’ presented at the LSE, Anthropology Department (London, June 2003); and at Brunel University, Department of Human Sciences, (London, May 2004).
  • ‘From tigris regalis to man-eating Royal Bengals: scientific constructs of Sundarbans tigers’ – Association of Social Anthropologists decennial conference (Manchester, July 2003) as part of the panel on ‘Aw[e]ful and fearful science: ethnographic responses to the industries, machineries and technologies of science’ organised by Alberto Corsin-Jimenez; discussant Dr. James Carrier.
  • ‘Living with the shifting natures of the Sundarbans tigers: enduring the politics of the royal beast’ organised by Patricia Taber – AAA (Washington DC, November 2001) – discussants: Professors Peter Pels and Richard Fox; Anthropological Survey of India, (Kolkata, October 2000) – discussants: Drs. Ranjit K. Bhattacharya and Tushar Niyogi.
  • Hoytoba prothom, athoba ditiyo, athoba tritiyo projonmo, amra shobai udbastur shontan (‘Whether of the first, of the second, or of the third generation, we are all the children of immigrants’) short essay on the sans-papiers. Literary meet katha o kahini (Rangabelia, Sundarbans, December 1999).

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