Remembering Saba Mahmood

Recording of an event held at LUMS to remember the life & work of

Professor Saba Mahmood.

Professor Saba Mahmood (1962-2018) was one of the foremost anthropologists of her generation.

Born in Quetta and raised mostly in Karachi, Mahmood studied at NCA, Lahore before moving to the United States in 1981 to study architecture and urban planning at the University of Washington in Seattle. She subsequently received an MA in architecture and urban planning from the University of Michigan and after practicing as an architect for some years, she went on to get an MA in Political Science from the University of Washington.

In the early 1990s, she joined Stanford University’s Anthropology program as a graduate student. She received her PhD from Stanford University in 1998 and taught at the University of Chicago before joining the University of California at Berkeley as a faculty member in 2004, where she offered her last seminar in fall 2017.  At Berkeley, in addition to the Anthropology Department, Professor Mahmood was affiliated with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Program in Critical Theory and the Institute for South Asia Studies (where she was instrumental in creating the Berkeley Pakistan Studies Initiative, the first of its kind in the United States).

Mahmood held visiting appointments at the American Academy in BerlinCenter for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and Leiden University. She taught at the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University, the Venice School of Human Rights, and Institute of Global Law and Policy. She was a co-convener of the Summer Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory at the University of California Humanities Research Institute, Irvine. Mahmood served on the editorial boards of Representations,[5] Anthropology TodayL’HommeComparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and Journal of the American Academy of Religion.[6]

Her book Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject received the 2005 Victoria Schuck Award from the American Political Science Association and was an honorable mention for the 2005 Albert Hourani Book Award from the Middle East Studies Association. Her second single authored book, Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report received the 2016 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion from the Society for the Anthropology of Religion. Her work has been translated into Arabic, French, Persian, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, and Polish.

Saba Mahmood was a visiting scholar at LUMS in March 2016, while here she gave a two-day seminar to faculty and students. She had planned to return to Pakistan later that year to start her new research project in her native land. She passed away on March 10, 2018 after bravely struggling against a malignancy for the past two years.

A full obituary can be read here.

Kamran Asdar Ali




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The Mushtaq Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences at LUMS

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