Renowned scholar and anthropologist Saba Mahmood died of pancreatic cancer on March 10, 2018. 56 years old, American scholar Saba Mahmood’s work focuses on the relationship between religious and secular politics in postcolonial societies with special attention to issues of sovereignty, subject formation, law, and gender/sexuality. Her work is best known for its interrogation of liberal assumptions about the proper boundary between ethics and politics, freedom and unfreedom, the religious and the secular, and agency and submission.
Her untimely death has caused deep shock and sadness among academicians and scholars alike. she was currently on medical leave as the university site informs us. Her work, ‘politics of piety’ forced the academia to remap the contours in understanding questions related to religion, ethics, and agency. Influenced by the work of Talal Asad, she wrote on issues of gender, religious politics, secularism, and Muslim and non-Muslim relations in the Middle East. She was born in Pakistan in 1962.
Professor Saba received her Ph.D. in anthropology from Stanford University. She holds professional degrees in architecture and urban planning and worked in these fields before pursuing anthropology. Professor Saba taught graduate courses on secularism and secularity; violence and hope; human rights and sovereignty; ethics and politics; modern religious hermeneutics; subject formation; and modern anthropological theory.
Her undergraduate courses focused on sexuality and gender; feminist theory and postcolonialism; anthropology of the Middle East and Islam; anthropology of religion; and ethnographic research and methodology.
Professor Saba has been a recipient of numerous fellowships, including from the American Academy in Berlin, Henry Luce Foundation’s Initiative on Religion and International Affairs, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, American Council of Learned Societies (Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship), and the Carnegie Scholars’ program. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Uppsala in Sweden in 2013.