Profile: Sadia Abbas

Associate Professor

Center for Migration and the Global City, Department of English, Program in Women's and Gender Studies

Adjunct Professor, Stavros Niarchos Center for Hellenic Studies, Simon Fraser University

Degrees and Previous Teaching:

B.A Wellesley College, 1992

Ph.D, Brown University, 2002

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Williams College

Recent Awards:

Co-winner MLA First Book Prize for 2014 for At Freedom's Limit, 2015

Board of Trustees Research Fellowship for Scholarly Excellence, 2014

Dembo Prize for Best Essay published in Contemporary Literature, 2011

Professor of the Year, Muslim Student Association, 2016

Students Choice Award, 2016

Specializations: Postcolonial literature and theory, the culture and politics of Islam in modernity, early modern English literature—especially the literature of religious strife—and the history of twentieth-century criticism.  

Research interests: ranging from film, European perceptions of Europe’s own history and identity, networks of cultural circulation in the Mediterranean, religion, theology and theory, the history of European Christianity, religious fundamentalisms, neoliberalism, the rise of the global right, contemporary British fiction, gender and religion, early Netherlandish and Renaissance painting, contemporary Pakistani art, to the transformation of Pakistani popular music in the past fifty years.

Current projects:

Lecture Series:

Conceived and coordinate the Beyond Islamophobia and Postcolonial Questions and Perfomances lecture series.

A novel, A Change of Colour, set in Karachi a couple of decades ago.  I am hoping to complete this soon.

A book, in its early stages, tentatively titled Space in Another Time: Essays on Ruins and Monuments. This project extends a line of thinking regarding the importance of ruins to artists contesting religio-national narratives articulated in the final chapter of At Freedom’s Limit.  This is a postcolonial study of varieties of Hellenism and the importance of ruination in the Western imagination and their significance for conceptions of the nation-state.

A study (may become a book), in its early stages, of Pakistani painting which examines the relationship between techniques of painting and postcolonial conceptions of the nation.

Published essays on the Catholic martyrological poetics of Robert Southwell, the fiction of the Muslim diaspora, Jewish converts to Islam and migrants to Pakistan, the uses of Reformation in contemporary Muslim thought, and treatments of subjectivity in contemporary theorizations of Muslim female agency. 

Book: At Freedom’s Limit: Islam and the Postcolonial Predicament, published by Fordham University Press, 2014.

In this I examine how contemporary critical theory and political discourse constitute Muslims.  I am interested how a series of impasses in western thought (regarding the Enlightenment, liberalism, the Reformation and Protestantism) and an anxiety about the crisis of Muslims in the Euro-American midst get worked out on the bodies of Muslims and through the figure of Islam.  So as not to grant a priority to the metropolitan context, the book has a double structure in which I discuss some of the responses to imperialism and the internal confrontation between secularism and religion and also the confrontations between orthodox and heterodox versions of religion in Muslim-majority societies.  Moreover, the book engages with the global circulation of Islamism, especially in its relation with left politics, the colonial construction of religious identity, Pakistani laws between imperialism and the military, and aesthetic responses to Islamism and the state in the Pakistani Anglophone novel and contemporary painting.

  • Courses Taught

    Undergraduate courses I have taught at Rutgers include “Transnational Muslim Fiction,”  “Religion and Literature,”  “Literature and Decolonization,” and “Techniques of Poetry.  I have taught graduate course such as “Introduction to Postcolonial Theory and Literature,” and “Religion, Literature and Theory” and “Spy Novels and Empire.”

  • Education

    B.A. Wellesley College

    Ph.D. Brown University           

  • Publications

    The Echo-Chamber of Freedom: The Muslim Woman and the Pretext of Agency.” Forthcoming, boundary 2.

    “Religion in the Age of Identity: The Challenge of the Novel,” Contemporary Literature, November, 2011.

     “Itineraries of Conversion: Judaic Paths to a Muslim Pakistan” Crisis and Beyond: Re-Evaluating Pakistan, ed. Naveeda Khan, London: Routledge, 2009.

    “Other People’s History: Contemporary Islam and Figures of Early Modern European Dissent,” Early Modern Culture, 2007.

     “Polemic and Paradox in Robert Southwell’s Lyric Poetry,” Criticism, Fall 2003.

     •Other publications:

    “The Roots of Pakistan’s Political Crisis: A Kleptocratic Military and Corrupt Political Elites,” Counterpunch,, Nov. 12, 2007.

     Some Recent Talks:

    “On the Question of Metropolitan Solidarity,” University of Pittsburgh,  April 2012.

     “Antinomian Revival in the Muslim Novel,” invited talk, Haverford College, April 2011.

     “Islamism and the Pakistani Praetorian State,” panel with Christian Parenti and Biju Matthew at Leftforum, NYC, March 2011.

     “The Echo-Chamber of Freedom: The Muslim Woman and the Pretext of Agency,” invited talk, Center for Muslim Societies, Simon Fraser University, March 2011.

     “The Idea of the West in Orhan Pamuk’s Snow,” Conference on Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean, Hellenic Studies Progam, Simon Fraser University, March 2011.

     “The Echo-Chamber of Freedom: The Muslim Woman and the Pretext of Agency,” Dept of Comparative Literature, UCLA, Jan. 2010.

     “Thinking About Elsewhere,” Conference on Park 51, Rutgers-Newark, Nov. 2010.

     “The Echo-Chamber of Freedom: The Muslim Woman and the Pretext of Agency,” Queer Cosmopolitanism panel at the ACLA, April 2010.

     “A Few Cautions about the Turn to Religion,” Women and Religion Conference, Rutgers-Newark, March 2010.

     Member of panel introducing “Re-Evaluating Pakistan” at Leftforum, Mar 2010.

     Interviewed as a South Asianist in BHUTTO, a documentary, released 2010.

     “The World is All We Have,” Response to Stathis Gourgouris at Columbia University Faculty Literary Theory Seminar, Feb. 2009.

     “Religion in the Age of Identity: The Challenge of the Novel,” English Department, Williams College, Fall 2007.

     “Bracketing Justice: Religion in the Age of Identity,” invited talk, Department of Comparative Literature, SUNY Buffalo, January 2007.

     “Religion and the Task of Postcolonial Studies—Analysis or Critique,” Plenary session, Religion and Postcolonial Criticism Conference, Princeton University, March 2006.

     “Theodicy, the Ethics of Unbelief and Criticism,” Religion and Postcolonial Criticism Conference, Princeton University, March 2006.